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DESIGNED BY  Roger Storm, NASA Glenn Research Center


  • Clean foam meat tray, at least 9 inches by 11 inches and preferably white
  • 30 to 35 toothpicks
  • Low temperature glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Hobby  knife, razor utility knife, or single-edge razor blade (adult help here)
  • Cardboard or board to cut on
  • Fine tip permanent black marker
  • Ruler
  • Emery board
  • Manila folder
  • Plastic toy army soldiers (optional)


  • Download and print a copy of the pdf file "1901 template".
  • Use scissors to cut out all three templates on the heavy lines. Do NOT cut the lower wing in half at this time.
  • Do all hobby knife or razor blade cutting on the board or cardboard to protect your working surface.
  • The finished model is for display only; it is not meant to fly.


1. Carefully trace the wing and elevator shapes on the
inside of a meat tray as shown. Be sure the front edges of the wings go about 2/3 of the way up the curved sides of the tray. Check the bottom of the tray and avoid any logo found there. You may need two trays. Cut out the wings and elevator with the hobby knife or scissors. Use the emery board to smooth the cut edges and sand off the pen lines.

Wing and elevator patterns traced onto  meat tray.

2. Using a black marker and templates, mark the locations of the rib lines on both sides of each wing and elevator sections. Make two sets of marks, one on each edge. Connect the marks to make the rib lines. Use a permanent ultra fine black marker and a straight edge made from a manila folder (so the end can be bent to conform to the rounded shape of the foam).

Lines are marked and drawn on the wing

3. Now cut out the center of the lower wing only as shown by the dotted lines on that template. Cut two toothpicks in half and sharpen the cut ends of three of them. Dip the ends in glue and stick them in the cut edges to join the lower wing halves, leaving a 1.5 cm. gap as shown.
(If the foam is thin, glue the toothpicks to the underside of the wing instead.)

Two lower wing halves ready to be joined  with toothpicks and glue.

4. Use the wing template and a sharp toothpick to mark the holes for the spars on the top surface of the lower wing and the bottom surface of the upper wing. Note that the front edges of the wings curve down.

Spar locations in wing being marked with a toothpick being stuck through holes in the wing template.

5. Dip toothpicks in glue and insert them in the spar holes now marked in the lower wing. Try not to push them all the way through the wing. Be sure they are standing up as straight as possible. The upper wing in the front of this picture is upside down.

Toothpicks stuck into lower wing.

6. Now, with both the upper and lower wings upside down (the edges should be curving up at this point), insert the back row of spars into the underside of the top wing. Use the marked holes as a general guide, but keep the spars straight and evenly spaced. Put a little glue on each to keep them in place as shown in the picture. Now join the front spars to the top wing, remembering to keep them straight and fasten them with dabs of glue.  This takes some effort to get everything in the right place and is easier to do with two people.

Lower wing and spars being joined to upside-down upper wing.

7. Join two toothpicks side-by-side so the overall length is 11 cm.. When the glue is set cut each to a length of 9 cm and then glue the cut-off end back on, but at a 90 degree angle as shown. You will need to make two of these skids.

Two skids made by joining two toothpicks end to end.

8. Turn the wing assembly upside down and glue the skids on either side of the opening in the lower wing. The skids should overlap the front and middle toothpicks that join the wing halves and should extend out beyond the front (curved edge) the the lower wing.

Skids being glued to bottom of lower wing. Model is upside down.

9. Turn the assembly back over so it is right-side up and cut two pieces to brace between the two skids and glue one at the end and one at the middle. Cut two more pieces for upright support for the elevator the same length as those at the end of the skid and glue them sticking up at the middle crossbrace.
Also make two braces to go from the upper wing to the elevator by joining two toothpicks side-by-side with glue and then cutting to a length of 6.5 cm.

Four half toothpicks glued as uprights on skids to mount elevator.

10. Place glue on the ends of the four uprights and then push on the elevator. Also put glue on both ends of the upper braces, push them first into the center of the top of the elevator along the rib lines and then into the front edge of the upper wing as shown. (If the foam is thin, glue the braces to the underside of the upper wing instead.)

Two braces made by joining two toothpicks end to end run from front edge of upper wing down to elevator.

11. (Optional) You may add figures by cutting, swapping, and gluing parts of small, plastic army men which are about 5 cm tall. In the figure to the right, the green men show the original shapes and the tan men are in the final shapes.
ADULTS: A hobby knife was used to trim away the guns and helmets. Using the knife and glue gun, the arms and legs can be cut and swapped or repositioned. Five-minute epoxy works better.

Army men shown before and after alteration to recreate 1901 picture of launching glider

Finished glider  posed with army men.

Photo from 1901 of glider launch recreated with model and army men below.




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Editor: Tom Benson
NASA Official: Tom Benson
Last Updated: Thu, Jun 12 05:10:21 PM EDT 2014

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