|Time Required||Average (6-10 days)|
|Prerequisites||This is a "do-it-yourself" science fair project, because it's up to you to choose and build the different kinds of kites you wish to test. You will also design the experimental setup using a fan, which will require some creative problem-solving on your part.|
|Material Availability||A couple of specialty items are needed. See the Materials and Equipment list for details.|
|Cost||Average ($50 - $100)|
AbstractFlying kites is an excellent way to learn about aerodynamic forces. In this science fair project, you will build and test a variety of kite designs to see which flies best in low wind speeds. You will use an inexpensive anemometer to accurately measure the wind speed. Since you will be choosing which kites to build and test, the experimental procedure provides a general outline for the experiments, but there is a lot of opportunity for you to be creative with your kite designs. This is a DIY (do-it-yourself) kind of science fair project!
The objective is to build and test a variety of kite designs to see which flies best at low wind speeds.
David B. Whyte, PhD, Science Buddies
Science Buddies Staff. "How Low Can It Go? Design a Kite that Flies Best in Low Winds" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 23 Oct. 2014. Web. 26 Feb. 2016
Science Buddies Staff. (2014, October 23). Retrieved February 26, 2016 from
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Kites can be flown just for the sheer fun of watching them fly, or even as a means of lifting or pulling objects. Some examples of kites that have a practical use include pulling carriages, lifting scientific instruments, providing high platforms for viewing enemy positions during war, and pulling sleds in the Antarctic. Different kite designs are used, depending on the goal. If the goal is to pull a person over the surface of water at high speeds, the design should be a large kite that can be guided by wires or strings to pull in any given direction (see Figure 1). All kites, whatever the design, have certain features in common. They are heavier than air and rely on aerodynamic forces to fly. Kites have a surface that provides the lift necessary to overcome the kite's weight, as well as a solid frame, normally made of wood or plastic. A kite is made as light as possible for good performance, but it must be strong enough to withstand high winds.
Figure 1. A kite surfer uses the forces created by the wind and the kite to propel himself over the water. (Wikipedia, 2009.)
In this aerodynamics science fair project, you will build a variety of kites and determine which design is best for flying at low wind speeds. An electric fan will provide the wind, or you can perform the experiments outdoors using "real wind". You will measure the wind speed with a handheld anemometer. An anemometer measures wind speed by measuring how fast the wind makes a fan blade turn. As the wind blows, it spins the fan blades and a tiny generator to which they're attached. The generator produces a voltage that is proportional to the speed of the wind, and which is measured by an electronic circuit that gives an instant readout of the wind speed on a digital display. Get those creative juices flowing and let's get started!
Terms and Concepts
Based on your research, what are the parts of a standard diamond kite?
What are some of the different kinds of anemometers used to measure wind speed?
This informative site also has a kite simulator, called KiteModeler, to let you study the forces on a kite. You can then build a kite based on your design and compare the results with the computer program.
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Materials and Equipment
Materials for making kites; read through the Experimental Procedure for additional information.
Helpers (2, in addition to you)
Framing square or other tool to measure right angles; available at your local hardware store
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Experimental ProcedureImportant Notes Before You Begin: This is a "do-it-yourself" science fair project, because it's up to you to choose and build the different kinds of kites you wish to test. You may need to modify the procedure below to make it works for your particular kites, fan, etc. You will also design the experimental setup using a fan, which will require some creative problem-solving on your part. As an alternative to using the fan, modify the procedure to test the kites outdoors at various wind speeds.
Building Three Types of Kites
Build three different kinds of kites to compare. For example, you could compare a box kite, a diamond kite, and a sled kite. Visit this NASA website for pictures of different kinds of kites.
The size and surface area of the kites should be roughly equal.
A wide variety of kite kits and kite accessories are available at department, hobby, and toy stores. You can even design and build your own kites from scratch.
Setting Up the Test Area
Place the fan in a room that has at least 3 m of open space in front of the fan so you can fly the kites. If you don't have that amount of space at home, get permission to use your school gym or another large room at school. The area should be free of drafts.
Point the fan in the horizontal direction that you will use for the experiments.
The center of the fan should be 1 m above the ground.
If you are not able to adjust the height to 1 m, simply use the available height and modify the procedure accordingly.
Measuring the Wind Speed
Turn the fan on its lowest setting.
Use the anemometer to measure the wind speed at different distances form the fan.
Use meters per second (m/s) as the units for wind speed.
Measure the wind speed at the 0.5-m marks on the masking tape.
Use the meterstick to ensure that the anemometer is at the same height for each reading.
Use the framing square to ensure that the meterstick is at a right angle to the floor.
Testing the Kites
Place the meterstick perpendicular to the floor, 3 m away from the fan.
The meterstick should be upright, in relation to the floor.
Have your helper hold the meterstick upright.
Start with 1 m of flying line, but feel free to adjust to a length of string that works best for you.