Event-Based Science

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Event-Based Science meets National Science Education Standards!

First Flight!


Event-Based Science is a new way to teach middle school science. It is an award-winning, standards-based program in which newsworthy events establish the relevance of science topics; authentic tasks create the need-to-know more about those topics; and lively interviews, photographs, Web pages, and inquiry-based science activities create a desire to know more about those topics.

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bernouli lift drag yaw pitch aerodanimics

First Flight!First Flight! is an Event-Based Science module about how airplanes fly. It uses the Wright brother's first controlled, powered, heavier-than-air flight* and other firsts in aviation to establish the context for exploring physical-science concepts related to flight. The task in First Flight! places students in the roles of airplane designers. Students will acquire then use their knowledge of lift, drag, thrust, and gravity to design a new airplane. The airplane they design will compete in an Air Show at the end of the unit.

*The first flight took place in 1783, the first powered flight in 1854, the first powered heavier-than-air flight in 1890. The Wright brothers were the first to successfully add control to powered, heavier-than-air flight.

NSTA Recommends First Flight!

Another Aviation First

Steve Fossett's GlobalFlyer passes over the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.

On March 3, 2005, Steve Fossett broke another aviation record. By covering 23,000 miles in 67 hours, he became the first person to fly solo around the world without refueling.

Fossett Declared Dead

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As with all Event-Based Science modules, much of the information that students need is provided in the pages of First Flight!. However, more information is needed. Information about real airplanes will add to the authenticity of your study. Information about real airplanes will also add to the authenticity of final products.

First Flight! Resources

A "pdf" file containing web sites, books, material lists, and correlations with National Science Education Standards.
Use the BACK button in your browser to return to this page.

First Flight! tips

If you are having any trouble getting the Puppet Plane Science Activity to work, here are some tips from EllaJay Parfitt, Southeast Middle School, Baltimore, Maryland. the best results:

  1. Use light-weight fishing line and attach it with a very small amount of "tacky." I don't know what "tacky" is. EllaJay described it as a sticky, clay-like substance. Good luck.
  2. Adjust everything to get a good balance before putting the plane in front of the fan.
  3. Medium speed is best.
  4. The plane works best between 1m and 1.5m in front of the fan.

Also, take a look at the plane position in the photo above. We know that this one works.

EBS Breaking News
Click here to use Google News to search and browse 4,500 continuously updated news sources for breaking news about aviation.

Below are some World-Wide Web sites where additional information is available. Click on the highlighted words and be linked with helpful sites.

Links to First Flight! related WEB Sites
(Links are checked monthly. They were working on the day of the last update.)

  • Wright Flyer Online this NASA educational web site permits students to conduct real-time science. In March 1999, a model of the 1903 Wright Flier---the first airplane to make a successful powered and piloted flight---is scheduled for tests in the world's largest wind tunnel complex at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA. Tests are to be conducted to ensure that a replica to be built by a non-profit institute can safely be flown by a pilot on Dec. 17, 2003, the hundredth anniversary of Orville and Wilbur Wright's first flight.
  • U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission The Centennial of Flight Commission serves as a national and international source of information about activities to commemorate the centennial of the Wright Brothers' first powered flight on the sands at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903.
  • Aeronautics History You probably know NASA for being behind our nation's very successful space program. But, did you know that NASA stands for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration? Aeronautics is the science of flight. By studying why and how airplanes fly, scientists and engineers can design and improve them. Every airplane that you have seen or flown on is made possible by the study of aeronautics.
  • We highly recommend NASA's Beginners Guide to Aerodynamics . At this Web site you can study aerodynamics at your own pace and to your own level of interest. Some of the topics included are: Newton's basic equations of motion; the motion of a free falling object, that neglects the effects of aerodynamics; the terminal velocity of a falling object subject to both weight and air resistance; the three forces (lift, drag, and weight) that act on a glider; and finally, the four forces that act on a powered airplane. Because aerodynamics involves both the motion of the object and the reaction of the air, there are several pages devoted to basic gas properties and how those properties change through the atmosphere.
  • Plane Math Designed for students in grades 4-7 interested in aeronautics-related careers. Includes nine lessons on such issues as plane capacity, time zones, and flight planning. Extensive background information on the concepts behind the site is available for teachers and parents.
  • AirSafe.com This site has been in operation since July 1996, just two weeks before the crash of TWA Flight 800. Since its inception, the goals of AirSafe.com have been to provide the aviation safety community and the general public with factual and timely information on events that involve the deaths of airline passengers. AirSafe.com also provides fatal event information by airline and aircraft model, as well as information about current aviation safety issues.
  • State and National Traffic Accident Fatality and Injury Data This is a useful site that provides information useful to students as they conduct Interdisciplinary Activity: Mathematics: Flying is Safer Than Picking Your Friends and the Performance Assessment: Writing to Persuade.
  • Navigational Vectors After completing a number of pilot training lessons in which students learn how to use vectors, read real time weather maps, and track real planes flying in U.S. skies, students then put their knowledge to the test by taking the Pilot Test Flight. Here they will solve an authentic real world problem using science and mathematics. (This project is developed and managed by the Center for Improved Engineering and Science Education (CIESE) which is located at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.)
  • Welcome to Hang Gliding See the sites, meet the pilots, and find everything you ever wanted to know about the greatest flying sport on earth! Hang Gliding!
  • Exploring Leonardo This excellent website offers resources for learning about Leonardo da Vinci, one of the best known, yet least known about, characters in world history. Explore this site and learn some fascinating things that are known about this scientist, inventor, and artist.
  • These sites were recommended by students of Lindsey Weiss:
  • How We Made the First Flight by Orville Wright This site contains original photographs and the words of Orville Wright. As you read Orville's description of the storm that struck Kitty Hawk in the late fall of 1903, you might want to search for the track of that storm at this site UNISYS Weather - 1903 Atlantic Hurricanes.
  • An Unofficial Tuskegee Airmen Home Page This is an unofficial home page on the Tuskegee Airmen. It was started by R. Russell Nakatsu a social studies teacher and technology specialist for Sequoia Junior High School in the Kent, Washington, School District. The page was started after an inspiring presentation by William H. Holloman III at Sequoia Junior High. The page is designed as a starting point for students researching the Tuskegee Airmen. There are links to many other sources of information about these heroes of World War II.
  • Video - Wright Brothers Lift Off


Video of the Last Great First in Aviation

Scenes from the Wright Brother's Cycle Shop

Event-Based Science developer Dr. Russ Wright--the other Wright Brother--stands in front of the original Wright Cycle Shop. In 1937, Henry Ford moved the shop to it's present location in Greenfield Village, Dearborn, MI. Bicycles and wheels hang from the ceiling of the shop. The bicycle was built by the Wright Brothers.

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