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Teamwork in Aerospace


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Subject Area: Science and Technology

Grade Level: 6-12

National Standards:

Apply the concept of force and inertia to optimize the flight performance of a glider.


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After completing the exercise, the student will have a more thorough understanding of the parts and operation of the aerospace industry and will have the experience of working in a diverse engineering team to produce a desired outcome.

Working in teams is one of the most fundamental, yet difficult, lessons to be learned by students of all ages. The aerospace industry is composed of research institutions, aircraft and engine production companies, and end-users including the airlines and the military. Each of these elements require teamwork to be successful. To provide students with an early exposure to team dynamics, the NASA Glenn Research Center has developed the following teamwork activity. Students are grouped into "companies" of four or five students that must produce a paper airplane design to win a competition for a "contract" from NASA. The winner of the competition is determined by a fly-off among the competing companies.

The activity is performed in a one hour classroom session, using rather inexpensive materials (8 1/2 x 11 paper, paper clips, tape, ..) A key element of the activity is that only one airplane can be submitted by each company, so the members of the company must learn to work together to produce the best design and flight results. Because of the limited time, the students work in a stressful environment. The main outcome of the activity is not the aerodynamics of the glider, or the winner of the competition, but a careful examination of the processes used by the students and the degree to which the companies and the individual students worked as a team.

A Power Point Presentation of slides is provided which details the steps to be used in the activity and some questions to be used to guide the discussion after the fly-off.

Teachers proceed to the activity.


Students will be evaluated on the degree of participation in the team activity.


You will learn to work in a diverse engineering team to produce a desired outcome.

Submitted by: Tom Benson, NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio


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

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