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McEagle Styrofoam Glider

TOPIC: Gliding Flight
DESCRIPTION: Plans for building a high-performance glider out of Styrofoam food trays and packages.
EDITED BY: Roger Storm, NASA Glenn Research Center


Styrofoam meat tray or
Styrofoam breakfast tray from McDonalds or other fast-food restaurants
Exacto TM Knife
White glue
Sand paper, fine grade or emery board
Double sided cellophane tape (optional)
Marker Pen
Cellophane tape


1. Cut out the pattern pieces and join the fuselage pieces end-to-end.

2. Cut two long rectangles slightly larger than the fuselage pattern from the flat surface of the Styrofoam meat tray. Laminate the Styrofoam pieces with double - sided tape or glue together and press. If gluing, lightly roughen the contact surfaces with sand paper or emery board to improve adherence. (Balsa wood may be substituted for the fuselage.)

3. Lay the pattern pieces for the wings, stabilizer, and fin on flat surfaces of the Styrofoam tray. Trace the patterns and cut out each piece with the Exacto knife. Be sure to protect your table top. Also cut out the fuselage piece from step 2. Label the forward direction on each piece. Lay the fuselage pattern on the laminated Styrofoam piece you made in step 2 and trace and cut.

4. Glue the fin, and stabilizer to the fuselage at the places indicated in the plans. Lightly roughen the contact surfaces to improve adherence. Refer to the diagram for placement.

5. Before gluing the wings, divide them in two along the cut line. Lightly sand the the upper and lower surfaces of the wings to a width of about 1 cm along the cut lines.

6. Lay a bead of glue along the upper edge of the fuselage in the indicated place. Touch wings pieces together again and set on top of the glue bead. Using books or some other support, elevate the wing tips about 2.5 cm (1 in) higher than the middle to form a dihedral angle (see diagram). Lay another bead of glue along the top of the cut line and smooth with your finger. Let the glue dry for all pieces before continuing.


When the McEagle is dry, temporarily tape the dime to one side of the fuselage at a point just behind the leading edge of the wings. Toss the glider and observe its flight. If the plane climbs too steeply, move the dime slightly forward. If the plane dives too steeply, move the dime backward. Try to achieve a gentle glide. Permanently mount the dime with tape when satisfied with the glide. Make adjustments to McEagle's right or left movements by slightly warping the rear edge of the fin in the opposite direction .


McEagle achieves a smooth, gliding flight through its design and through balancing adjustments made when mounting the dime . The dihedral angle of the wings provides stability against rolling in flight by concentrating wing lift above the fuselage where the plane's center of gravity is located. This keeps the wings up and the fuselage down. The fins of McEagle are mounted at a slight negative angle to the plane of the wings. This produces a slight negative lift in the airplane's tail that helps bring the nose up to recover from dives produced during stalls. Adjustments to the position of the dime changes the front-to-back location of McEagie's center of gravity. If too far forward, the plane will be nose-heavy and dive steeply. If too far back, the plane will be tail-heavy and will climb steeply, lose air speed, and stall.

Return to Aeronautics Activities
Return to Aerospace Activities Page
Forces on a Glider
Wing Geometry

Aerospace Education Services Project
Oklahoma State University


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Editor: Tom Benson
NASA Official: Tom Benson
Last Updated: May 13 2021

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