Teamwork in Aerospace
These pages describe an educational
which has been presented by Tom Benson of the NASA Glenn Research Center at
several schools and workshops. There are two main objectives to
the activity; one is to expose the students to the operation
of the aerospace industry, and the other is a team dynamics exercise.
After studying the
background information, students are ready to begin
The students are asked to do something that they know how to do:
build and fly a paper airplane. The teacher begins by dividing the group of students
up into 4 to 10 "companies", depending on the number of students participating. For best results,
there should be than 4 people in each company. Depending on the teacher's desired results,
one can let the students group themselves (all boy, all girl teams, etc.) or one can
insure that each company is mixed by race, gender, and age.
It is best to have each
company seated at its own table on which is placed all the required materials
except the colored paper.
Since the students have been introduced to the acquisition process,
the teacher tells the companies that NASA has just
issued an RFP for a paper airplane to be used at the Visitor's Center at NASA Glenn
for student outreach activities. Here's the RFP:
The awarding of a contract is going to be determined by a fly-off. Each company is to
build a single prototype aircraft using the colored paper. (Hand out one sheet of
the colored paper to each company). They have 15 minutes to produce the aircraft
and they are to meet at some location (front of the class .. hallway .. whatever)
in exactly 15 minutes with a pilot, an airplane, and a company "president" for the
flyoff. Here's the rules for the fly-off.
Any questions about producing the airplane, the fly-off, or any other matters can
only be communicated to the teacher by the president of the company. The students have to
relay the question to the president, then the president talks to the teacher.
The companies have received "government furnished equipment (GFE)" in the form of paper,
scissors, tape, and paper clips in order to refine their design.
The students are free to test fly their aircraft before the
fly-off. But the contract will be awarded solely on the results of the fly-off.
Give the students 15 minutes to make their aircraft. Re-enforce the time element
and create a little pressure, by calling out "10 minutes, 5 minutes, 1 minute ... 3, 2, 1
done". There will be a lot of chaos going on while they design and test fly their aircraft and
that's what the activity is all about. There will usually be one team that can't quite
meet the time constraint. If the teacher wants to re-enforce an additional lesson,
disqualify that team from the fly-off.
Conduct the fly-off. Only accept an aircraft made from the colored paper.
Time each aircraft from the second it leaves the hand of the pilot
until it hits the ground. Have just one plane fly at a time. The sum of two flights
gives each company a score. The highest score wins.
Now call all the companies back together for a de-briefing. Several slides with
questions have been deleveloped to guide the de-briefing,
but the key element here is to get the students to
talk about the design process and how well the teams worked together.
CLICK HERE to download your own power point presentation
of the entire activity.
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