There is some debate as to whether Einstein is accurately quoted as having said, “Play is the highest form of research.” Whether it came from one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century, or the coolest high school science teacher in the history of ever – Mr. Smith– it’s no less accurate. Play is the best way to learn, at any age.

My family recently tested this hypothesis in our own aeronautics lab – also known as The Kitchen. Our method? A fun (and easy) DIY paper airplane launcher. You can conduct your own “study” too. Here is what you’ll need and how to do it.

DIY Paper Airplane Launcher - (cool) progeny #engineering #coolkids #coolprogeny

Supplies

  • Rubber Bands (at least six)
  • Medium Weight Paper
  • Paper Clips
  • Tape
  • Markers
  • Chair or Stool with Four Legs

Designing and Building Your Aircraft

Step 1 : Fold your plane
DIY Paper Airplane Launcher - (cool) progeny #engineering #coolkids #coolprogeny

Step 2 : Pull the smaller loop in your paper clip out and straighten it. This will leave you with something that looks like a cane with a hook on one end.
DIY Paper Airplane Launcher - (cool) progeny #engineering #coolkids #coolprogeny

Step 3 : Gently flatten your plane out. Insert the straight end of the paper clip into the center fold about an inch from the nose of your plane. Pull it through until only the hook shows on the opposite side.

Step 4 : Tape the flat portion in place.

Step 5 : Fold your plane back into place with the hook facing down on the under side.
DIY Paper Airplane Launcher - (cool) progeny #engineering #coolkids #coolprogeny

Step 6 : Tape the underside and nose section of your plane together, securing the hook in place firmly.

Constructing Your Catapult

The process is a breeze, just loop your rubber bands together, pulling to tighten.
DIY Paper Airplane Launcher - (cool) progeny #engineering #coolkids #coolprogeny

The number of bands you’ll need will depend upon the distance between the legs of the chair or stool you’re using. I’d suggest making your catapult longer than needed so that you can adjust it, using tension in the band to teach the kiddos about propulsion and force. The shorter/tighter the bands, the greater the force.

3… 2… 1… TAKEOFF!

DIY Paper Airplane Launcher - (cool) progeny #engineering #coolkids #coolprogeny

Once your first design takes flight, try playing with other design shapes or even paper types. Fold N Fly is a great place to find ideas. Have fun with decorating your aircraft too!
DIY Paper Airplane Launcher - (cool) progeny #engineering #coolkids #coolprogeny

While they’re having a blast launching planes across the house they are learning about aerodynamics, lift, drag, force, inertia and so much more.

Play is serious learning. Enjoy the flight!