Paper Airplane Event

Physics Olympics 2015 — Paper Airplanes Event

Objective: To build paper airplanes that maximize flight time and horizontal displacement when launched.

(**As a practice ahead event, teams may try this as much as they like in the weeks leading up to the Olympics.  When they get to the competition, they will be given any materials needed.  They are NOT to bring anything constructed in with them**)

There are two separate tasks to be completed during this event.

1)   Time of Flight of a glider(50 %)

2)   Distance Traveled of a glider(50 %)


-Each team will be given one 8.5” by 11” sheet of unfolded copy paper and one 30 cm long piece of masking tape for each task.

-Each team will have no more than 10 minutes to make both gliders

-No team may roll/crumple the paper/tape into a ball and throw it – calling it an airplane.


-All teams will launch their gliders from a common height above the ground.  This height will either be roughly shoulder height (~1.5-2 meters) or shoulder height plus an added height of not more than 2 meters.

-Each team can launch each glider two times

  1. Time of flight

The team with the glider that flies for the longest time earns 50 pts.

The 2nd place team earns 48 pts. The 3rd place team earns 46 pts…

  1. Distance Traveled

This measurement is the horizontal displacement of the glider.  A straight line will be measured from the launch point (measured from the ground below) to where the glider hits the floor.

The team with the glider with the greatest horizontal displacement earns 50 pts.  2nd place team earns 48 pts…

Total Score = Sum of the two components scores (Time of Flight score + Distance Traveled score)