Aerodynamics of Paper Airplanes

As a semester-long project in my Experimental Methods class at Messiah University, I had to design and perform an in-depth hypothesis-driven experiment. There was no restriction on what the experiment could be, just that it was able to be tested. Along with testing our hypotheses, we had to perform uncertainty, regression and correlation, statistical and sensitivity analyses. This project was done in groups of 3 and ended with us creating a website to explain our experiment and share our results. Creating a fake brand around the experiment, filming a hype video, and getting professional-quality headshots taken were not requirements for this project, but we did them anyway...

For our experiment, we chose to investigate the aerodynamics of paper airplanes. More specifically, how paper weight and rear flap angle affect distance and speed. To test our hypotheses well, we had to find a way to fold and launch our paper airplanes in a highly repeatable way, as slight changes to something so light can have a significant effect.

Our major findings were that when throwing a paper airplane completely horizontally, as you increase paper weight average distance decreases, but so does variability. Additionally, rear elevator flaps at angles of 30˚, 60˚, and 90˚ all increase flight distance as compared to 0˚. While rear flap angles of 30˚, 60˚, and 90˚ all result in different flight paths, overall flight distance was not significantly different between any of these three. Check out our website for more results and details on the experiment.

Hype Video