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Glenn EDC – Let it Glide

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is America’s civil space program and the global leader in space exploration. The agency has a diverse workforce of just under 18,000 civil servants, and works with many more U.S. contractors, academia, and international and commercial partners to explore, discover, and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity.


Using the engineering design process, students will develop and build a shoebox glider, and then improve it in terms of aircraft and wing materials, shapes, and structure, to produce the greatest glide slope (the ratio of the distance traveled to decrease in altitude) possible.

Supporting Science Investigations:

  1. Exploring Glider Design  – Assemble a balsa wood glider and explore the functions of its parts by flying it with a part removed or adjusted.
  2. Air Force Three – Conduct three simple investigations to experience the effects of Bernoulli’s principle which states that as air moves faster, it exerts less pressure perpendicular to the direction the air is moving.
  3. What’s the Point? – Experience how an airplane wing can direct the air above and below it depending on the wing’s angle of attack as an application of Newton’s third law of motion

Introduction Video

EDC-02: Let it Glide Facilitation Guide (PDF)

EDC-02: Let it Glide Facilitator Presentation (PDF)

Next Generation Science Standards Addressed

Engineering Design

  • MS–ETS1-1. Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
  • MS–ETS1–2. Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • MS–ETS1–3. Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
  • MS–ETS1–4. Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved. The performance expectations above were developed using the following elements.

Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

  • MS–PS2–1. Apply Newton’s Third Law to design a solution to a problem involving the motion of two colliding objects.
  • MS–PS2–2. Plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object’s motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object.
  • MS–PS2–5. Conduct an investigation and evaluate the experimental design to proivde evidence that fields exist between ojects exerting forces on each other even though the objects are not in contact.

Related NASA Content

Online Resources

Informational Videos

Contact Information

Gerald Voltz
Education Program Specialist
(216) 433-8817

Glenn Research Center – Office of STEM Engagement

Phone: (216) 433-6656

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