- 6 paper plates
- Masking tape
- Measuring tape
Whether you believe in aliens or not, flying saucers are real, or at least the principles of aerodynamics that would cause a flying saucer to take to the air are real. One only needs to look at a flying disc to see that a circular object can take flight. But how does the diameter of the saucer affect flight? Conduct your own flying saucer experiment by testing how varying the diameter of paper plates affects flight distance and hang time.
State the purpose of your experiment. This experiment will attempt to deduce whether the diameter of a flying saucer has any effect on the saucer's hang time and flight distance.
State your hypothesis. What do you think will be the outcome of your experiment and why? Will the largest saucer fly the farthest? Will the smallest saucer hang in the air the longest?
Pair up six paper plates so that you have three sets. Leave the first set intact. Trim an inch off each plate's diameter (the length of the plate) in the second set with scissors. Trim 2 inches off each plate in the third set. Place your compass needle in the middle of the plate you wish to cut and adjust the width of the compass to meet your measurement specifications.
Staple the plate pairs together. Staple them so the top surfaces of each plate are facing each other. Use only about six evenly spaced staples per flying saucer.
Place a piece of masking tape on the floor. This is the point from which you will toss each flying saucer. The mark serves as a reference point from which to measure when analyzing the distance each saucer flies.
Create three columns on your piece of paper. The first column should be for your largest saucer, the second for your middle-sized saucer and the third for your smallest saucer. Subdivide each column into two more columns. The first subcolumn will be used to record the distance your saucer flew on each trial throw. The second subcolumn will be used to record the hang time of each saucer on each trial throw.
Toss each saucer five times. With each toss, use the stopwatch to record the hang time. Start the stopwatch once the saucer leaves your hand, and stop it once the saucer touches the ground. Once the saucer lands, use the measuring tape to measure the distance from your starting point (where the masking tape is located) to where the saucer lands.
Analyze your data. Add up each subcolumn and divide each by five (the number of trials). Which saucer had the longest average hang time? Which saucer flew the farthest on average?
You can alter this experiment by creating more saucers of varying sizes or by conducting additional trials.