Test your paper airplane-making skills this weekend as the Lawrence Municipal Airport celebrates its 80th anniversary.
As part of the events, The World Company is sponsoring a paper airplane contest at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Participants will compete in two divisions: distance and decoration. Prizes are $50 cash for those 17 and under for the winner of each division, and $100 for those 18 and over.
Airplanes must be made of one sheet of newsprint and can include glue tape and up to three paperclips. Please bring your completed airplane to the event.
Emily Arnold spends much of her time designing airplanes.
She’s a senior aerospace engineering major at Kansas University.
But when it comes to the most accessible of all aircraft design — the paper airplane — count her out.
“I would say I’m far from an expert,” says Arnold, who is from Hillsboro. “There’s a bit of a disconnect. It’s something totally different. Things don’t just scale down proportionately from a regular-sized aircraft design.”
But with a communitywide paper airplane contest approaching Saturday, there are some Aeronautics 101 lessons that could help you nab part of $300 in cash prizes.
The contest, sponsored by The World Company, is at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Lawrence Municipal Airport. It’s one of several events scheduled to celebrate the airport’s 80th anniversary.
Here are some basic aeronautical principles to keep in mind when crafting your paper glider, courtesy of Ron Barrett-Gonzalez, associate professor of aerospace engineering at KU:
• Lift is the basic force that keeps an airplane in the air. When that lift is balanced out by the weight of the airplane, it will fly longer.
“The first thing is getting the balance right,” Barrett-Gonzalez says. “Airplanes are very tricky to balance. What you have to do is put he center of gravity somewhere further on the wing. And so there’s normally a heavy component like an engine. And in a paper airplane, that’s often a paperclip, or it’s a big wade of paper, a piece of tape or a chunk of glue that goes up there.”
• Know how to troubleshoot.
If your airplane pitches up immediately, stalls and falls to the ground, it needs more weight in the front.
If it does the opposite and does a nosedive, it has too much weight in the front.
The angle of the wings also is important. If the plane rolls to the right, the left wing is probably twisted up a bit. If it rolls to the left, the right wing is probably higher.
• Try making a structural support in the wing. Barrett-Gonzalez says creating a “beam” in the front of the wing by folding the paper can help give he plane some stability.
• The design of a paper airplane is somewhat dependent on its purpose.
For Saturday’s contest, a larger-winged aircraft may make sense, since the goal is distance and not accuracy.
But if you’re concerned about wind gusts, Barrett-Gonzalez says making a sleeker design — one that looks more like an arrow — would be the best bet.
• Arnold suggests making sure your folds are crisp, to make sure the structure stays together.
Overall, Barrett-Gonzalez says don’t be discouraged if your first attempt doesn’t go well.
“It takes a little bit of experience — a little bit of practice,” he says. “And what you should do it just try it over and over again and, well, if it doesn’t quite fly right, you should try one thing or another.”
Even though making paper airplanes out of newsprint might be more of a challenge than making them out of thicker paper, Barrett-Gonzalez says he’s sure even children will find a way to make it work on Saturday.
“This is a community that is absolutely filled with bright young people,” he says, “and I’m sure there will be a horde of them that figure this stuff out.”
HOW TO MAKE A PAPER AIRPLANE
1. Fold a sheet of paper in half lengthwise.
2. Re-open it, with a crease separating the two halves.
3. Fold each corner of the paper in toward the center, so that the inside edges are even with the center crease.
4. Repeat the process on the other side of the paper.
5. Starting at the tip of the plane, fold the paper down on each side so the inside edges line up with the center crease.
6. Repeat this on the other side of the paper.
7. Turn the airplane over and fold it in half along the center line.
8. Make a crease.
9. Fold a wing with the line of the fold running parallel to the centerline of the plane. It should be 1/2 to 1 inch from the center of the plane.
10. Repeat this to make the second wing.
11. The finished product.
PLANE DESIGN NO. 2
1. Start on one end of the paper and fold down about 1 inch.
2. Repeat the process three more times, continuing to fold over the previous folds.
3. Flip the plane over and fold in half, making a crisp crease along the length of the plane.
4. Fold the first wing starting 1/2 to 1 inch from the center fold.
5. Repeat for the second wing.
6. The finished product.