STEM Play Packs – Frisbee

Flying High

Aim: Experiment with angles of throw to gain more control over where the flyer goes.

Supplies: Frisbee; large open area; Long string or hose and/or tape measure; helper (optional); paper and pencil (optional)

 

How to play: 

 

  1. Using string or a hose make a straight line approximately 25 ft. If you don’t have a tape measure just mark off a long straight line.
  2. Practice a few times throwing along the line
  3. If it is a windy day stop and think about how you have to adjust your throw.
  4. Remember to try to throw the Frisbee with the same force each time so that the distance is changed only by the angle.
  5. Throw the Frisbee as flat as you can, aiming it down the center line you made. You can have a helper watch to make sure you didn’t throw it at an angle but threw it flat. If you have a piece of paper and a pencil or pen, you can record this data. Throw the Frisbee exactly the same way four more times and record your data.
  6. Throw the Frisbee tilted up a little, at a roughly 45-degree angle above the first flat throw.  (You can imagine that if your arm were the hour hand of a clock, the previous throw would have been directed toward three o'clock and this throw should aim between one o'clock and two o'clock). Throw it this way at least five times. Other than changing the launch angle, try to keep throwing it exactly the same way each time. 
  7.  Throw the Frisbee tilted down a little, aiming at an angle about 45 degrees below a flat throw (between four o'clock and five o'clock), at least five times. Again, try to throw it exactly the same way each time. 

 

Questions to Ask

    • How did changing the angle affect how far the flyer went ?
    • How did the changes affect how near it landed to the center line and which side it landed on (right or left)?
    • How far did the Frisbee travel each time when thrown at an upward angle? 
    • How far did it travel away from the center line, and in what direction?
    • How is the design of the flyer different from a pie plate or a piece of cardboard? How might this shape help it fly?
    • How far did the Frisbee travel each time when thrown at a downward angle? 
    • How far did it travel away from the center line, and in what direction?
    • Did you see a difference in the distance the Frisbee traveled when you changed the angle?
    • At which angle did it travel the farthest?

 

Where is the STEM?

    • Science: Lift and drag affect the flight of the flyer.
    • Technology: The design for the disc was inspired from a pie plate.
    • Engineering: Design of a frisbee maximizes its ability to fly.
    • Math: Lines and angles are part of geometry.

 

What is the Science?

Two key forces that act on a Frisbee during flight are lift and drag. Lift is the force that holds the Frisbee up, and in flight it works against the force of gravity on the disk. The Frisbee’s shape creates this lift force as it flies through the air. Because of the Frisbee's curved shape, the airflow above it must travel at a higher speed than the airflow underneath This difference in airflow speed creates low pressure above and high pressure below the disk. This pressure difference provides the lift. Drag is a resistance force caused by the air. The angle at which the Frisbee is thrown, affects both lift and drag.

 

Frisbee Spin 

Aim: Experiment with how the spinning of a frisbee affects how far it goes. 

Supplies: Frisbee;  tape measure; helper (optional); paper and pencil (optional)

How to play: 

  1. Throw a frisbee without bending your wrist. Notice how far it goes and whether it wobbles while it is flying.
  2. Throw a frisbee by bending your wrist back causing the frisbee to rotate (spin) as it leaves your hand. Notice how far it travels this time and the amount of wobble.
  3.  Remember if you are measuring distance try to throw with the same force and angle each time so you only change one variable at a time.

 

Questions to Ask

    • What happened to the frisbee when you threw it without any rotation? 
    • How did you measure stability? 
    • How can you increase the spin? 
    • What effect does bending your elbow and your wrist before you throw?

Where is the STEM?

    • Science: Aerodynamics is about the forces and motion of objects flying through the air.
    • Technology: The lip and other features on a frisbee improve its flying.
    • Engineering: Experiment with ways to increase spin on the frisbee.
    • Math: Numbers help us measure the distance and stability.

What is the Science?

You probably noticed that your Frisbee did not travel far when it was thrown without spin. Spinning the Frisbee helps it fly by supplying angular momentum, which helps keep the Frisbee stable; the faster it spins, the more stable it should be. Momentum is a term that describes the strength of a moving object. Objects that are not moving, do not have any momentum. Things that are moving have less momentum if they are lightweight or moving slowly and the opposite is true if they are moving fast or are heavy. ‘Angular momentum’ is when an object spins around, as in a top, instead of proceeding in a straight line such as a car or baseball. The bigger and faster things are more difficult to stop or change direction than lighter or slower things.

Aerodynamics is the study of forces and the resulting motion of objects as they fly through the air. Judging from the story of Daedalus and Icarus, humans have been interested in aerodynamics and flying for thousands of years, although flying in a heavier-than-air machine has been possible only in the last hundred years, thanks to the Wright Brothers. Aerodynamics affects the motion of every object that moves through the air, including kites, and jet engines. While aerodynamics plays a major role in many sports, such as golf, football, ski-jumping, and automobile racing it is really important to frisbees and baseballs.

An experiment about momentum: https://www.exploratorium.edu/snacks/momentum-machine 

 

Make a Flyer

Aim: Experiment with making a flyer to be aerodynamic and fly well.  

Supplies: 4 Paper plates; paper and pencil (optional); wide tape; scissors; frisbee. 

How to play: 

  1. Throw a paper plate like a frisbee. Notice how far it goes and how much it wobbles.
  2. Tape two paper plates together around the edges with the eating sides together. Throw this frisbee and notice how far it goes and the wobble in the flight.
  3. Take two more paper plates and draw a circle in the middle of each paper plate the same size, leaving 2-3 inches around the outside edge, then cut out the circle.
  4. Tape the paper plates with the eating side together.
  5. Throw this ring flyer and notice how far it goes and the wobble in the flight.
  6. Throw the frisbee in this kit and notice how far it goes and the wobble in the flight.
  7. You can write down how far each throw goes so you can compare. 
  8. Remember to throw each time with the same angle and force (strength).

 

Questions to Ask

    • How were the flights of the three different paper plate flyers the same or different?
    • How does the flight of the paper plate frisbees/ring flyer compare to the original frisbee? 
    • What else can you do to a paper plate to make it a better flyer?

 

Where is the STEM?

    • Science:Lift, drag, and weight all affect the flight of a frisbee.
    • Technology: A frisbee is a tool to help something travel over a distance.
    • Engineering: Design and create a flyable frisbee.
    • Math: Geometry is needed to draw a circle. Numbers help us record the distance flown.

 

What is the Science?

Whether you are designing robots or Frisbees, an engineer uses the design process. This process uses several steps.

Research the problem- Lift is the force that holds the Frisbee up, and in flight it works against the force of gravity on the disk. The Frisbee’s shape creates this lift force as it flies through the air. Because of the Frisbee's curved shape, the airflow above it must travel at a higher speed than the airflow underneath. This difference in airflow speed creates low pressure above and high pressure below the disk. This pressure difference provides the lift, this is called the Bernoulli effect.

 

Develop possible solutions

  • Brainstorm ideas.
  • Think about all the possibilities- are there other materials you could use?
  •  Draw a picture of your idea

 

Create - Build your idea

 

Test, Evaluate, Improve, Redesign - to make improvements on the first design.

 

Other Resources:

Explore why flying rings fly further than discs 

 

Flying saucer shaped flyers

 

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