STEM Paper Airplane Challenge with Multiple Designs & Instructions

The folded paper airplane. Today we have easy paper airplane folding instructions and then we are going to take it to a new height {get it?} with a STEM paper airplane challenge for kids of all ages.

Folded paper airplane in child's hand shown with words, 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
Let’s make and fly paper airplanes!

Paper Airplanes for Kids

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.

Paper Airplane Designs

There are an unlimited number of folded paper airplane designs, but this article covers the most popular paper airplane model, the Dart. Other common airplanes which are folded and flown are:

  • Glider
  • Hang Glider
  • Concorde
  • Traditional airplane with rear V vent
  • Tailed Glider
  • UFO Glider
  • Spin Plane

What paper airplane design flies the farthest?

John Collins wrote the book on folding a distance champion paper airplane, “The World Record Paper Airplane“, which describes his winning airplane, Suzanne. While all the previous record setting airplanes had very fast flying narrow wings whereas The Paper Airplane Guy’s airplane flew slower with much wider, gliding wings.

Step by Step Paper Airplane Instructions for Dart Design

This week we studied paper airplanes. All you need to make this paper airplane model called a dart is a regular piece of paper or any rectangular piece of paper. If you are doing a challenge afterward, you will want all the paper pieces for each child to be the same size.

How to Make a Paper Airplane

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

There are a ton of great how to make a paper airplane 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.

STEM Paper Airplane Challenge

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!

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!

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How Much Cargo Can a Paper Airplane Carry?

Supplies you need to set up your kids challenge

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.

Paper Airplanes FAQ

What is the best way to fold a paper airplane?

The good news is that it doesn’t take any special paper or skills to fold a paper airplane. You can use regular paper, but for best results follow the folding directions carefully when it comes to position of folds, being symmetrical from one side of the airplane to the to the other and folding with sharp creases.

What makes a paper airplane fly the farthest?

There is much discussion over what actually is the most important aspects of a distance paper airplane. The current record holder’s approach was completely different than the previous established idea. Aerodynamics, weight, glide length and angle of throw all play important parts in how far your plane will go.

What is the farthest a paper airplane can fly

The Guinness World Records records “the farthest flight by a paper aircraft is 69.14 meters or 226 feet, 10 inches, achieved by Joe Ayoob and aircraft designer John M. Collins”

What are the 3 main types of paper airplanes?

Dart
Glider
Hang glider

More Easy STEM Ideas from Kids Activities Blog

Leave a comment: How much money did your children manage to successfully load onto their paper airplanes? Did your kids love folding paper airplanes and flying their homemade toys?