Why are aircraft designs so different? (LS-ES-765)

The relationship between structure and function is important in both science and engineering


Structures can be designed to perform specific functions by considering the properties of different materials. We can find relationships between structure and function both in living things and in human-designed objects. So, in this Learning Scenario, we are going to use the tools of structure and function thinking to find out how the shapes of structures help determine the function of an aircraft.

European aviation with Europeana

The participants will work into teams with Europeana videos about aviation to prepare a short “elevator pitch” presentation of 30 seconds about their assigned video and present to the rest of the group.

Aircrafts and augmented reality

Each group will research a commercial aircraft model with and app of augmented reality and create a poster with an aircraft model. The app will be NASA Aeronautics AR, an augmented reality mobile app designed to educate people about NASA’s X-planes and aviation research programs. The information presented showcases some of the advancements and far-reaching impact that NASA has on the aviation industry. Using the mobile phone’s camera pointed at a flat surface, this app displays 3D models of current or future NASA research aircraft.

Each poster will include a title, an image and a short text explaining the most important features of the aircraft (for example, type of engine, type of energy used, wing design, speed and noise).To prepare a simple poster participants will use platforms as Canva or Padlet.

Time to design

Exploring F-22 Raptor and C5-B aircraft, educator asks the students: “Have you ever thought about why not all planes are the same?”. Students share their ideas on this and then the educator continues with the presentation of an F-22 Raptor and a C5-B Galaxy. The educator asks the students again why they think these two aircrafts have a different design. To collect the similarities and differences between the two models that the participants point out, the educator will create a table on a flipchart or large piece of paper. (30 minutes)

After exploration, students are asked to build and test two aircraft designs. Educator and students use instructions for paper aircrafts similar to the F-22 Raptor and the C5-B Galaxy. They will investigate which model flies further, faster, more accurately,  and stays longer in the air. Finally, to improve the design, tell students that they can use the technical design process to redesign and improve both paper aircraft to fly further, faster, more accurately, or stay longer in the air. (30 minutes)

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Public Domain Mark 1.0: the featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on Europeana and has been provided by the Rijksmuseum.

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