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Big Bird Gets Ready to Take Flight

In February, Innovation Center student designers were brainstorming a new engineering challenge. They had already built a pizza delivery drone, made Santa’s sleigh take flight, and even accomplished getting something as flimsy as pool noodles to fly. The team was seeking something that could push them, a new challenge so to speak. During the session an idea was brought up — “Let’s make the world’s largest RC powered paper airplane.” 

To up the ante, the students decided to add another goal to this new endeavor — get the plane to be recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. Holding the official world record would be the crowning recognition for this engineering feat.

Jake Marshall, project team lead for Aeronautics said, “As an instructor, this is what you dream of, to have students push their own engineering skill set to endeavors beyond the instruction taught in the classroom. It’s a great place to be [having the kids pushing their own skills].”

The task, though simple in concept, was complex in practice. For Guinness to recognize it as the world’s largest RC powered paper airplane, the material used would have to consist of 60% paper board. Fortunately, in their UAV Engineering Course, students became accustomed to working with foam board, the preferred material for building planes from scratch. 

The specs to beat were 12 feet long and 8 feet wide. They began engineering and building after-hours during Aeronautics Project Team meetings.

Construction was going really well and serious progress was underway…then COVID hit and the project had to be put on hold. 

In October, after all of the necessary precautions were put into place and hybrid learning kicked into gear, so did the team. They rushed back and picked right back up where they started. 

“Big Bird” currently measures a whopping 18 feet long and 12 feet wide, well beyond the current record. Student designers are working through the challenges of the placement of servo motors, prop powering, and actually launching.

The Student Project Lead, Josh Bishop, said, “If there is one thing I get out of this project, besides how long it takes to make a 20 foot plane out of paper, it would be the real understanding of how valuable a team is.“

The student designers anticipate that this bird will take flight some time around the end of December. To check on the progress go to the Aero Team’s YouTube Channel for the latest video. 

Innovation Center of St. Vrain Valley Schools