STEM Paper Airplane Challenge

The paper airplane. It is probably one of the first things you learn to fold and today we are taking paper airplanes to a new height {get it?} with a STEM paper airplane challenge.

A paper airplane STEM challenge is a terrific way to help teach your kids about science, technology, engineering and math, all while building their brains and making connections through problem solving.

STEM Paper Airplane Challenge for kids  - Who can fly the most cargo on their paper airplane?  Shown is a child holding a homemade paper airplane with weights attached for the airplane challenge
Who will win the paper airplane challenge?

This week we studied paper airplanes.

Every week we like to do a different challenge with our elementary-aged kiddos.

I give them a problem or a contest, and they have to figure out how to solve it. You would not believe how engaged the kids are in learning when they have a problem to solve!

STEM Paper Airplane Challenge

Make a paper airplane that can carry a cargo and glide more than ten feet (not be hurled, but actually glide).  The cargo we decided on was money-coins.  And the winner is the kiddo who could fly the most money.  Our winner flew a plane with $5.60!  Second place winner came in with nearly $3.00 of coins!

How Much Cargo Can a Paper Airplane Carry?

Supplies you need to set up your kids challenge: (affiliate links)

STEM Paper Airplane Challenge showing a paper airplane loaded up with five dollars worth of coins in a child's hand reading to fly in the airplane challenge
Will your paper airplane fly with $5 on board?


How to Do the Paper Airplane Challenge

Paper Plane Target Challenge

In this first challenge the goal is accuracy. The cargo paper planes need to demonstrate they can fly through a target successfully.

  1. Use tape to mark a line on the floor 10 feet from the doorway you will use for the target.
  2. Stretch a piece of tape across the doorway about 1/4th the way from the door way top.
  3. Kids will throw paper airplanes attempting to fly over the tape and not run into the wall!
  4. The challenge winner is the one that is the most accurate with the heaviest plane.
Paper Plane Distance Challenge

The second challenge has a goal of flying distance. Accuracy is only important that the paper planes are still in boundaries that you determine.

  1. Use tape to mark a starting line on the ground or floor.
  2. Determine what “in bounds” is based on your surroundings.
  3. Challengers all start with the same weight on the paper airplanes and take turns throwing for distance.
  4. Mark paper plane landing positions with a marker if multiple rounds are played.
  5. The challenge winner is the one who threw their paper plane for the longest distance.

Just in case you need a refresher course on paper plane folding…

How to Fold a Paper Airplane Instructions

How to fold a paper airplane to join the paper airplane challenge.  Step by step instructions to folding the classic paper airplane.
Follow these simple steps to fold a paper airplane!

Download & Print How to Fold a Paper Airplane Steps:

Video: How to Fold a Paper Airplane

If your kids don’t know how to make a paper airplane, have them watch some videos on You Tube.

Below is our kids favorite airplane to make.

This is a problem solving activity for them, so try to stay as un-involved in the process as possible. Your kids can just watch the videos and teach themselves.

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Leave a comment: How much money did your children manage to successfully load onto their paper airplanes?