There are several ways you can use this project to focus on other steps of the engineering design process. You can also go through the entire engineering design process in more detail.
Background research: have your students do research about paper airplane designs online or using books. Are some types of designs more stable than others? What types of designs have held
world records for distance? Are some easier to make or more reliable?
Test and redesign: this process was informal in this lesson. You gave your students 15 minutes to play around and decide on a design, but they did not necessarily do this systematically.
Officially, they only tested one "iteration" of their design. Instead, have them formally test multiple iterations of their design. After completing the first round of tests, repeat the process:
give each team 10 minutes to modify or improve their design and then test again. Keep iterating as time allows. Does the class-wide average distance get better with each successive round of
iterations? Do more teams meet the time constraint of building the planes within five minutes? In other words, are the designs improving overall? What about the individual teams?
Try designing a plane for accuracy instead of distance. For example, make the goal to throw the plane in as straight a line as possible (with the criterion that the plane must travel some
minimum forward distance, like 3–4 meters). Mark a long, straight line on the floor with tape and throw the planes along this line. Measure the perpendicular distance to the line from where the
plane lands (the horizontal dashed line in Figure 2). This distance should be as small as possible (ideally zero if the plane lands right on the tape, meaning it flew perfectly straight).
You can easily turn this into a scientific method project. Have each team pick a single paper airplane design, but this time, pick a single variable to change (for example, adding fins to the
wings, changing the angle of one of the folds, changing the angle at which they throw the plane relative to the ground, etc.). How does changing this variable affect the distance the plane flies?
Be careful about control variables as well (e.g. which student makes or throws the plane).
Try experimenting with paper airplanes outside. Do certain plane designs fly better in windy conditions than others? How do planes fly if you throw them into, along with, or perpendicular to