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How can we improve a falling propeller?


Core National Curriculum links

Science, DT

Main engineering principles

  • Pupils are engaged in the purposeful practical problem solving


About a lesson


Adapting, Creative problem solving, Improving

EDP stages

Imagine, Create, Improve

Resources required

Paper, Propeller template (link to template), Scissors, Paper clips, Sellotape, Glue, Elastic bands, Lolly sticks, String, You Tube clips of Red Bull Birdman competition (any other resources that pupils may request)

Summary of activity

Pupils make and test a simple paper propeller using a template. Pupils discuss how the propeller's flight could be improved. Pupils then apply this to designing and making their own improved paper flying device that will stay in the air for as long as possible.

To open the activity

Show pupils clips from You Tube from the Red Bull Birdman competition. Introduce activity through an invitation to enter a similar competition to create a flying device that stays in the air for as long as possible!

The main activity

Pupils follow instructions on the template to make their propeller. Pupils have the opportunity to test the propeller and see how it flies/falls.

Pupils to discuss how the propeller worked and begin to develop ideas on how it can be improved. If pupils wish they can jot down design ideas. Give pupils access to the other resources and allow time for them to create an adapted and improved flying device - this may take the form of an improved propeller or a new device such as a plane/glider. The objective is to keep the device in the air for as long as possible.

Challenge and support

Challenge: test the distance travelled as well as time spent in the air.

Support: opportunities to research paper planes etc. on the internet to find inspiration/ideas.

To finish the activity

Using a large space, pupils to test their flying devices. Time how long each stays in the air. Give time for pupils to evaluate.

Learn from me (what worked well for us)

Be prepared for pupils to ask for resources that may not be immediately to hand, such as artstraws. You may need to reinforce the main objective as some pupils may be drawn to making paper planes.

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