Helicopters use sets of revolving rotors to create both propulsion and lift. Leonardo da Vinci first envisioned the aircraft, but it was not until the 1930s that engineer Igor Sikorsky created the first functional helicopter design, according to the historians at Exploratorium, When teaching kids about the mechanics, uses and history of helicopters, there are a number of different crafts you can use that are both fun and educational.
Helicopter Pinwheel Picture
Making helicopter pinwheel pictures is a suitable project for children ages three and up. Depending on the specific age group of the children you are working with, you can either have the kids draw out their own paper helicopter bodies or provide a template that they can color in with crayons and markers. You will then need to do the same with a rotor, which, for simplicity's sake, you can make from paper in the shape of a large "plus" sign. Assist the children in cutting out the rotors and centering them on top of their helicopter bodies, and then help them push brass fasteners through the rotor-centers. Children then fold down the two clasps on the back of their fasteners, which will allow the rotors to spin, just like with real helicopters.
Flying Paper Helicopter
This project is slightly more advanced than the pinwheel picture, as it takes helicopter crafts into the third dimension and lets them fly. To build a flying paper helicopter, you will either need to use a template or draw your own. Draw a tennis racket shape, with squared-off as opposed to round edges. After cutting out this square tennis-racket shape, cut vertically about two-thirds of the way down its center opposite to where the “handle” is. Fold the two resulting flaps down horizontally on opposite sides of the shape (these are your rotor blades). Next, attach a paper clip to the bottom of the handle, and drop your completed paper helicopter from a height. It should spin around and float slowly back to Earth, utilizing the same principles of lift as a real helicopter.
Flying Pencil Helicopter
For this craft, you will need a shortened pencil, a pin, some paper, a pair of scissors and—if you want to attach a body to your helicopter—some glue. What sets this craft apart from the above-mentioned paper helicopter is its unique rotor design and its use of a relatively heavy pencil body. You will need to cut along the four diagonal lines of the square template, which meet in the center of the template at a circle. Then, curl over the four resulting sections so that one of each of their two corners (the specific corner is indicated on the template) align with the center of the circle. By pushing a pin through all of these corners, through the center of the circle, and finally into the eraser-end of a pencil, you will have constructed a sturdy flying pencil helicopter with three-dimensional rotor blades.
- helicopter image by Irina Kodentseva from Fotolia.com