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How an Educator Used Physics to Teach Model Aviation



 Video screen shot of the lab environment, courtesy of student Konrad Kaczmarczyk

The 22 lb., 11ft-span Zeggler was made predominantly from ¼” foam board, ¼” aspen plywood and EPS foam covered in Towerkote. We chose very available materials from the big box stores in as much as was possible. The bulk of airplane accessories were ordered from Tower Hobbies.

Due to transport considerations, the plane had to break down into manageable sections. A 1” aluminum box and steel tubing were utilized as the main wing spar system, and the landing gear was formed from gray schedule 40 electrical conduit. ¼-20 bolts and blind nuts were used in key assembly locations. 8 standard Futaba S3003 servos were used throughout, and the students made their own custom wiring harnesses using Hi-tech wire and EMS plugs. A 6.0 V 3000 mah NiMh pack powered the R2006GS 2.4 GHz receiver. Initially, twin .46 engines were tried, but a taxi test revealed the need for more power, so twin Thunder Tiger .65 glow engines were substituted. This provided approximately 4.0 HP and 20 lbs. of static thrust.   


Video screen shot of 400+ egg drop, courtesy of student Konrad Kaczmarczyk

The swarm of 400+ eggs was released with a unanimous cheer from all who were present; my class got to see their project and hard work come to fruition in a most memorable way. Of the dozens of things that could have gone all wrong, they all went right. A second flight was made for the newspaper reporter, and on June 2nd, we made the last flight with onboard cameras. 


Video screen shot of landing roll out, courtesy of student Konrad Kaczmarczyk

For you educators out there getting ideas, here are some helpful tips:

  1. Pick a mission best suited to your class’s abilities and other constraints
  2. Select a plane to fit your budget (or lack thereof)
  3. Think safety both during the build and ultimate operation
  4. Perhaps go kit-based before trying a scratch-built aircraft project
  5. Teach some aviation history that is relevant to the project
  6. Reference the project throughout the course to teach required content
  7. Don’t micro-manage; form a student team where they take a large leadership role
  8. Let them make mistakes, as long as they aren’t mission-critical or can be fixed later