This unit will start with some of the principles and mathematics behind flight and aerodynamics. You’ll get a chance to learn about how things fly, how people control flight, and the mathematics it takes to calculate aerodynamics. Over the course of the unit, you’re expected to learn the following
- What physical properties make flight possible and how do planes control that flight
- What mathematics can describe factors of flight like lift and drag
- How to simulate aerodynamics in a computer
- How to build and test airfoils using a wind tunnel
Your work in Aerospace Engineering this unit will set the foundation for much more complex tasks later on. You’ll need to use a lot of trial and error as you test your prototypes and get things working. As you start our class, you’ll go through three major steps:
- STEP 1: Learn the basic vocabulary and principles that make flight possible, as well as what mechanisms have been designed to control it
- STEP 2: Use math and physics to calculate the forces involved in flight
- STEP 3: Design and create your own airfoils and test their properties in the wind tunnel
When you’re done, you’ll have covered the basics of flight and have the knowledge to tackle more complicated problems in aerospace engineering!
PART 1: BASICS OF AERODYNAMICS
(10 pts) About 3 days
Our study of aerospace engineering starts with the fundamentals. We’ll start with a discussion of aerodynamic forces and control surfaces that let airplanes fly. We’ll also see if you can design a plane to accomplish a difficult round of challenges!
PART 2: PHYSICS OF AERODYNAMICS
(20 pts) About 2 days
Good engineers need to understand the math and science behind the engineering principles they work with. As such, this second part to the unit is all about math and the calculations that go into working with lift, drag, and making things fly.
PART 3: AIRFOIL CONSTRUCTION
(40 pts) About 4 days
Finally, you’ll get to design your own airfoil and test its effectiveness in our wind tunnel. We’ll start with a computer simulation to design our airfoils, then build them out of foam and see how they perform in the wind tunnel.
Part 1: Basics of AerodynamicsVocabulary and principles surrounding controlled fight
Forces & Surfaces
The beginning of our course must start with a discussion of the four forces of flight: lift, drag, weight, and thrust. We then need to develop that conversation into one of control surfaces, which are the various flaps and adjustments on a plane that help it control its flight. Once you’ve taken some good notes on these topics it’s time to put them into action!
The Engineering Design Process is all about brainstorming and trial-and-error. You’ll combine this process with the concepts of flight discussed already to put together a paper airplane that can complete a 4-part challenge. You’ll need to eventually have a single paper airplane that can complete a long flight, then a right angle turn, then a roller coaster dip, and finally another long flight all without being destroyed. You’ll need a good understanding of control surfaces to make this happen!
GRADING & PROCESS
Take 2 pages of detailed notes on the forces of flight and on control surfaces
Try different paper airplane types until you get one that can accomplish the 4-Part Paper Airplane Design Challenge
Have Mr. Benshoof confirm (visually) your completed 4-Part Challenge
Forces of Flight
What’s Due In Part 1: Basics of Aerodynamics
- Detailed Notes
- 4-Part Challenge
- Mr. Benshoof’s Confirmation
Here’s what’s due in Part 1: Basics of Aerodynamics
- Two pages of good notes on forces and control surfaces
- Complete the 4-Part Paper Airplane Design Challenge
- Have Mr. Benshoof confirm your completed 4-Part Challenge
Part 2: Physics of AerodynamicsThe mathematics & physics behind the forces of flight
Aerospace Mathematics Overview
Aerospace Formula Sheet
Engineering is often defined as “using math and science to improve the world around us”. The development of flight and airplanes is a great example of this, as a detailed understanding of mathematics and physics helped make the whole thing possible. Here, you’ll get to tackle some of the math and physics that describes flight for yourself!
First, you’ll take some careful notes on atmospheric pressure and on aerodynamic forces. Those notes will help guide you through the use of some very specific formulas as you complete some practice calculations about flight mechanics.
GRADING & PROCESS
Take careful notes on atmospheric pressure and aerodynamic forces from the videos
Work through the calculations assignment. You should work mostly by yourself, but can ask your classmates or Mr. Benshoof for clarifying help. Do your work in your engineering notebook!
Have Mr. Benshoof check-off your calculations in your engineering notebook.
What’s Due In Part 2: Physics of Aerodynamics
- Aerodynamics Notes
- Aerodynamic Calculations
- Mr. Benshoof’s check-off
Here’s what’s due in Part 2: Physics of Aerodynamics
- Take careful notes on both Atmospherics & Aerodynamic Forces!
- Work through the Aerodynamic Calculations assignment, showing all your work in your engineering notebook
- Have Mr. Benshoof check-off your assignment and review the answer key
Part 3: Airfoil ConstructionSimulate, design, build, and test an airfoil
Engineers that work in aerospace have to deal with some complex systems and calculations. In order to make that possible, many aerospace problems will eventually lead to a computer simulation. Here, we’ll use a computer simulation to start our work with airfoils. You’ll begin in a simulation called FoilSim which was developed by NASA. This simulation will help us design and compare different airfoil shapes.
Then, you’ll decide which airfoil(s) you think will work best. You’ll create a template and cut the airfoil out of foam using the hotwire. These airfoils model cross sections of a wing and we can use our wind tunnel to measure some properties about them. Collect the necessary data and add your results to the shared AE Spreadsheet.
Finally, you’ll look through the results from everyone’s tests and draw some conclusions about airfoil designs. These will be particularly useful in the next unit when we need to build the most effective glider.
GRADING & PROCESS
Take some detailed notes on airfoils and FoilSim
Use FoilSim to investigate the main shapes of airfoils and complete the “Airfoils” assignment
Design and create your airfoil(s)
Test your airfoils in our wind tunnel: the TurBlow1000
Add your test results to the shared AE Spreadsheet
Have Mr. Benshoof confirm your airfoil tests
Building an Airfoil
What’s Due In Part 3: Airfoil Construction
- FoilSim Notes
- Airfoils Assignment
- Design, Create, Test
- Share Results
- Mr. Benshoof’s Confirmation
Here’s what’s due in Part 3: Airfoil Construction
- Take detailed notes on airfoils & FoilSim
- Use FoilSim to complete the “Airfoils” assignment
- Design, Create, and Test your airfoils on the TurBlow1000
- Add your test results to the shared AE Spreadsheet
- Have Mr. Benshoof confirm your completed airfoil data
Double Check: Unit ExpectationsCheck what you need to have completed by the unit deadline
The purpose of this unit is to introduce the ideas that help describe the mechanics of flight.
(Part 1) You should have taken careful notes on Forces of Flight & Control Surfaces (2 pages)
(Part 2) You should have taken careful notes on Atmospheric Pressure & Aerodynamic Forces (2 pages)
(Part 3) You should have taken careful notes from FoilSim and airfoil designs
Building & Making:
(Part 1) You should have built a paper airplane that can complete the 4-Part Design Challenge
(Part 2) You should have completed the “Aerodynamic Calculations” assignment, showing all your work in your engineering notebook
(Part 3) You should have designed, created, and tested your airfoil(s) with the wind tunnel and shared your data
Checkpoints & Quizzes:
(Part 1) Mr. Benshoof should have seen your paper airplane accomplish all four design challenges in order (video is fine)
(Part 2) Mr. Benshoof should have checked-off your calculations assignment
(Part 3) Mr. Benshoof should have confirmed your airfoil and test