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Characteristics of Lift and Wing Area

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Subject Area: Science and Mathematics

Grade Level: 7-10

National Mathematics and Science Standards:

  • Mathematics: Represent problem situations with geometric models and apply properties of figures; use tables and graphs as tools to interpret relationships.
  • Science: Demonstrate an understanding of scientific inquiry and of the relationships among motion and forces.

National Technology Standards:

  • Technology productivity tools: Use of content-specific tools, software and simulations (e.g., environmental probes, graphing calculators, exploratory environments, Web tools) to support learning and research.
  • Technology communications tools: Routinely and efficiently use on-line information resources to meet needs for collaboration, research, publications, communications, and productivity.
  • Technology research tools: Use content-specific tools, software and simulations (e.g., environmental probes, graphing calculators, exploratory environments, Web tools) to support learning and research; select and use appropriate tools and technology resources to accomplish a variety of tasks and solve problems.
  • Technology problem-solving and decision making tools: Apply productivity/multimedia tools and peripherals to support personal productivity, group collaboration, and learning throughout the curriculum.


After reading the explanation given below, use FoilSim to complete the activity and investigate the factors that affect lift and how wing area and lift are related.

FoilSim is an interactive simulation software package that examines the airflow around various shapes of airfoils. As you change parameters such as airspeed, altitude, angle of attack, thickness and curvature of the airfoil, and size of the wing area, the software calculates the lift. The package was created at the NASA Glenn Research Center.

FoilSim II is a Java applet program that executes inside the browser of your computer. It is available on the World Wide Web at You can also download the program to run off-line.

Shown below is a screen shot from the program's controls and displays. You may change the values of the variables by using the slider or the input box on the left of the slider.

To use the slider:

  1. Click the mouse pointer on the arrows at the ends of the slider.
  2. Click the mouse pointer anywhere between the slider and the arrow.
  3. Drag the slider with the mouse.

To use the input box:

Simply select the value in the input box, key in the new value, and press Enter or Tab when finished. The button on the slider will move corresponding to the value typed in the box.

Image of FoilSim Interface

To begin the problem, click on the Activity button below.


You, or you and your partner(s), will be evaluated on the feasibility of your answers.


You will be able to use FoilSim to complete the activity of investigating factors that affect lift, determining the areas of triangles, and how to draw and interpret graphs.

Submitted by: George Curcic, University of Akron, Akron, Ohio

Related Pages:
Lesson Index
Aerodynamics Index


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Editor: Tom Benson
NASA Official: Tom Benson
Last Updated: Thu, May 13 02:38:38 PM EDT 2021

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