Launching Planes

Our team spends a lot of time working on robots, but in the summer, we like to try some different types of projects too.

As a fun, design challenge we decided we wanted to do a paper airplane competition, with a twist – we would also have to build separate launching devices to launch the planes instead of throwing them. We ended up using 3 different forms of potential energy. Our first team used elastic potential energy pulled back into a Tetrix based launch to launch their plane. Our second team used air pressure by making a closed-air system which launched a plane by pushing down on a soda bottle. Our final team used chemical potential energy from the reaction of Coca Cola™ and baking soda to launch a rocket-shaped plane.

We had a lot of fun planning our strategies for the competition and painstakingly assembling our planes and the launcher. Our elastic plane launcher ended up taking the prize for the most accurate, landing in the nearest target hoop twice, and in the farthest hoop once. The plane that launched with air pressure wasn’t too accurate, but it managed to land in the near hoop once (unfortunately the soda bottle broke immediately after the first accurate launch).  When you shoot for a moonshot you take a lot of risks and unfortunately the third plane was unable to launch, though we were treated to a pretty snazzy show of explosions. 

At the end of the day, we had fun, learned lots, cooperated and had a pretty cool air show!