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Welcome to the Beginner's Guide to Kites
Image of kite
An excellent way for students to gain an understanding and a feel for many of the concepts that they learn in math and physics is to build and fly a kite. The forces on a kite are so similar to the forces on an airplane that the Wright brothers often flew their gliders as tethered kites to determine the aerodynamic characteristics. Like an airplane, a kite is heavier than air and relies on the motion of the wind past the kite to generate the aerodynamic lift necessary to overcome the weight of the kite. The movement of the air past the kite also generates aerodynamic drag which is overcome by constraining the kite with a control line. The interaction of these forces determines the overall performance which varies with the design of the kite.

At this Web site information is presented concerning the construction, design, and flight characteristics of several different kites.

This site was prepared at NASA Glenn by the Learning Technologies Project (LTP) ( to provide background information on kites as teaching aids for math and science teachers. Some of the slides were prepared to support KiteModeler, an interactive educational computer program that allows students to design and test fly kites on a personal computer. Other slides were prepared to support LTP videoconferencing workshops ( for teachers and students. KiteModeler is currently available as a JAVA applet which runs in your browser. This program can also be downloaded to your machine.

This site has been intentionally organized to mirror the unstructured nature of the world wide web. There are many pages here connected to one another through hyperlinks and you can then navigate through the links based on your own interest and inquiry. There is also an index of topics that you can access from any page, so you are never more than two clicks away from any other Web page at this site. However, if you prefer a more structured approach, you can also take one of our Guided Tours through the site. Each tour provides a sequence of pages dealing with some aspect of aerodynamics.

NOTICE --- The site has been developed to support Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Many of the pages contain mathematical equations which have been produced graphically and which are too long or complex to provide in an "ALT" tag. For these pages, we have retained the non-compliant graphic at the top of the page and have provided a compliant text version of the equations in the body of the page. In many cases, because of the use of Greek fonts in the graphics, the purely English text version of the equations is slightly different than the graphic version. The differences are noted in the text.

Aerospace Activities and Lesson Plans

Beginner's Guide Home Page
Beginner's Guide to Aerodynamics
Beginner's Guide to Compressible Aerodynamics
Beginner's Guide to Propulsion
Beginner's Guide to Model Rockets
Beginner's Guide to Wind Tunnels
Free Software
Aerospace Resources


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Editor: Nancy Hall
NASA Official: Nancy Hall
Last Updated: May 13 2021

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