Helicopters and Fliers

Watching paper shapes fall to the ground may seem like a pointless thing to do but it is great fun and teaches us about

Gravity, the Air and Forces.

Flying fish

Flying fish are easy to make and great fun to watch falling through the air.

Take a long thin strip of paper 3cm x 21cm and fold it in half longways.
Form the tail of the fish by making two cuts halfway through and near the ends (but from opposite long sides) which can fit into one another and make the shape of the fish as in this picture.
Try lots of different lengths and widths of paper and try making the tails long or short then gather a ‘shoal’ together and drop them through the air all at once. They spin and flutter furiously! A ball would fall to the ground in a straight line! Why don’t they simply drop in a straight line?

Spinners and helicopters.

There are all sorts of designs for paper spinners or helicopters.

Here a long strip has been cut half way along to make two wings or ‘blades’. The remainder has been folded up and taped or stapled to make a ‘weight’ in the centre.

When dropped it spins quickly but slowly descends.

Here is a really brilliant helicopter.

The long strip is folded in the centre but at an angle to make a ‘v’ shape.

Then a paper rectangle about 10cm x 5cm is rolled and taped to make a tube 10cm long.

Two scissor cuts are made in the tube so that the ‘v’ can be pushed in. Some tape can be added to secure it if it keeps falling out.

Now experiment with bending and folding the wings so that they resist the air as they fall.

When it is allowed to freefall through the air it spins very quickly and this slows the descent.

See how long you can get it to stay in the air.

Try longer or wider wings

Try a longer or wider or thiner tube.

What else could you try?

Would any other shapes work?

Do you think this is how Orville and Wilbur Wright started?


This one is pictured after a freefall and it is just touching the ground and about to fall over.


See these and more spinners and helicopters in action on you-tube on the

technologytom channel

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It’s easy to cut 3 different lengths of paper strip to make 3 different sizes of flying fish as follows...
A big fish can be made from 3cm strips cut longways from sheets of A4 paper(30cm).
A medium size fish can be made from 3cm strips cut from A4 paper but from the short side (21cm).
A small size fish can be made from 3cm strips cut from the short side of some A5 paper (15cm).
You can try even shorter strips but they are tricky for children to work with.

The stages in making this simple spinner are...
1. Fold the strip in half but at an angle so that it makes ‘rabbit ears’ of the same length.
2. Fold each rabbit ear in half again in the same way as before but in opposite directions to make a ‘w’ shape.
3. Fit a paper clip to the centre to stop the rabbits ears from opening out.
4. Bend the ears up so that the ‘w’ shape looks like a letter ‘y’ when viewed from the edge rather than from the sides.

When released it spins like a helicopter to the ground and if symmetrical will follow a straight path down.

The challenge is to design a helicopter which takes the longest time to fall to the ground.

These are the more advanced helicopters which can be made very large and spin very slowly to the ground if deigned and made accurately.

Instead of a paper clip a paper tube has been used as the balance weight and as the handle to hold them before release.

This is yet another variation on the helicopter and there are lots more besides.

Can you invent your own?

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