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A Science Experiment on Making a Wind Tunnel

written by: Alicia • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 1/4/2012

Scientists use wind tunnels to determine how airplanes respond to wind currents. Here, we will look at showing eighth grade students how to make their own wind tunnel and then will experiment with the currents, determining how they affect air travel.

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    Making this lesson hands on with an experiment is the best way to get the students to understand the concepts taught.

    You will need the following supplies for this experiment:

    • Fan
    • Paper
    • Pencil
    • Glue
    • Duct Tape
    • Toy airplane
    • String
    • Scissors
    • 12 Milk cartons (1 quart size)
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    The Process

    Follow the steps below to complete this experiment:

    1. Give each student a list of items needed about a week before you are going to do the experiment. Not all of the children may be able to obtain 12 milk cartons so you should be prepared with extra. Having the students bring in their own tools reduces the cost you are going to have to put forth to do the project in your classroom. Use the above "Things You'll Need" list, but minus the fan. Send the list home so the parents can help.

    2. Review some background information about wind tunnels and why they are important. If fact, this experiment shouldn't be attempted until the chapter material has been covered. Children can do the experiment, but they won't know why they are doing it or what to look for if they haven't studied the subject matter first.

    3. Begin by making your wind tunnel. Get out your 12 milk cartons and cut the ends off of each one. This will take some time and you can in fact ask the students to do this at home. Again, not all the students will be able to bring in 12 cartons so you should be prepared with extra and you can have their ends already cut off.

    4. Glue 4 of the milk cartons together making them go across. Do this a total of 3 times so that you have 3 sets of 4 milk cartons glued across. Now glue the other 2 sets on top of the first set so that you have a wind tunnel 3 stories high. You are going to want to let the glue dry before you begin the experiment so you should plan on 2 days to finish the experiment. You can help hold the milk cartons together by using some duct tape. A few strips is all you should need.

    5. Turn your fan on and hold the wind tunnel up in front of the fan. Take your string and attach it to your airplane. Now hold the airplane string behind the wind tunnel.

    6. Have the students get out their paper and pencils and note what happens to the airplane. Have them put the airplane in different positions and take notes of what occurs. Use the nose, tail, and the wings of the plane in the experiment. Take notes of what each does. What makes the airplane spin? What makes the airplane dive? What makes the airplane lift? Have your students write up a report based on their findings.

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    Some Things to Remember

    • Make sure your milk cartons are not plastic, but cardboard. Cardboard is much easier to work with and it doesn't have a handle on it like the plastic version.
    • Make sure to remind the students not to stick their fingers in the fan or play with it. That could be very dangerous and kids at the 8th grade level like to fool around. Make sure you give them that warning before you begin.