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Can a shoe box fly?

Kiser Intermediate teacher Cheryl Jackson advises students on Tuesday as they make their preliminar designs for a shoe box glider in Adam Benoit’s AP physics class at Lincolnton High School.
Ray Gora / Lincoln Times-News


NASA puts young science minds to work on problem



Staff Writer

Shoe boxes with an array of choices for “wings”, from cardboard to Styrofoam, lined Adam Benoit’s tables and floor in his classroom on Tuesday, as teams of students started their first stage in the process of constructing a glider.

NASA’s “Can a Shoe Box Fly?” challenge is being executed by Benoit’s AP Physics students at Lincolnton High and Academically Intellectually Gifted (AIG) Kiser Intermediate School fifth-graders over the next few weeks. In hopes of crafting a version of the box that can glide, while following principles and guidelines outlined by NASA in a video conference with the students last week, Benoit and AIG instructor Cheryl Johnston talked with the local youth about how they would successfully complete the project.

Conversations were held about what type of material to use for wings, how to hold them to the box, and most importantly how they would get their shoe boxes to lift off the ground, as blueprints and early-stage plans were put together earlier this week.

After working together on a cardboard boat project last year, Johnston and Benoit decided to team up again to bring together students in a mentor-type setting to learn by doing.

“Our goal is to help students work collaboratively on a project by applying the knowledge and skills learned in class,” Benoit told the Times-News on Tuesday. “This way they don’t just know the topic, they also know how to use it.”

Using Bernoulli’s Principle and the four forces — topics they are learning about in class — the LHS students are working together with their younger team members to fulfill the set criteria of the challenge. Participants must utilize thrust, lift, drag and gravity forces in order to meet NASA’s regulations and execute the physics of flight.

After a conference with NASA officials, students had a more clear idea of what gliders are, what they typically look like and started to brainstorm how they could base the foundation of their gliders on a shoebox.

Fifth-grader Emma Estudillo’s all-girl group thought poster board may be the right route toward creating a flying box, as they planned how they would put their materials together while keeping the focus on the weight of their project.

While the foursome of Brandon Boyles, Hunter Clime, Chrissy Curtis and Francisco Murillo mulled over ways to incorporate lightness into their project in hopes of making it more aerodynamic, 10-year-old Murillo explained, while keeping the lid to the box strapped down — another requirement to be considered.

The younger group members, equally as enthusiastic, seemed excited to dig in and start putting things together as they helped make plans and discussed what could or couldn’t work.

LHS seniors Brett Thompson and Logan Ray were busy gathering pieces of cardboard to use as wings and the “tail” of the device in hopes of bringing stability and agility to their rectangular base. In the back of the room, however, was where the majority of the crafting seemed to be taking place as different types of wood pieces of various shapes and sizes were measured to mirror the plan the three high school students and 10-year-old Charlotte Zagorski just finished preparing.

While the local youth are learning through a more hands-on approach than reading about gravity and force in a science textbook, they are learning real-world applications that may help them later in life.

“It prepares them for the future by teaching them how to work well with others, including those they are not familiar with,” Benoit said. “This is a skill that many people lack when they start their careers; they spend most of their schooling working in groups with people they know and are comfortable with but have little experience with people they do not know very well.”

At first, the age-diverse group was weary and unsure of how they would work together over the upcoming class periods, but the Physics instructor and Johnston have noticed improvements in the communication between team members so far as they work toward a common goal. The project, called a Digital Learning Network (DLN), is a research and design project that allows students to present their creations to NASA through a virtual conference with them after they have created their gliders. Those presenting to the officials will demonstrate a flight and will give an oral summary of the work they have completed and their thought process during the challenge.

Monday, the teams will continue to put things together over their allotted hour or so, and will test fly them after Thanksgiving. Depending on the results of the flight, students will have the opportunity to go back to the drawing board to figure out what worked and what didn’t, fixing the issues they ran into before putting together their presentation for NASA that will later-be presented on Dec. 3.

Weather and wind conditions permitting, the groups will take turns testing their gliders at the end of the month.


Image courtesy of KaAnSuli | Lincoln Times-News

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