Make Slider's invention, then refine and optimize it so it flies farther.
- Target Age: 8-11
- Learning Goals: Pre-Algebra; Science & Engineering
- Related Episode: Episode 505: The Fairy Borg Father
Goal: To recognize that an existing invention can be refined and optimized to improve the way it performs.
Time: 30 minutes to an hour
Space: Desk or table (for assembly); large open area with at least 15 feet of open space (for flight testing)
- heavy-weight paper (24 lb. – 110 lb., available at office supply stores)
- straight plastic straws
- masking tape
- transparent tape
- tape measure
- 6-8 Glider Strips (pdf)
- "Slider's Glider" handout (pdf)
- "Test Results" handout (pdf)
- Set up a work space for your child that includes Glider Strips, straws, scissors, transparent tape, tape measure, pencil and "Slider's Glider" and "Test Results" handouts.
- For the Glider Test Flight Area: Mark off a starting line with masking tape. Allow at least 15 feet from the starting line for the glider to glide, plus room enough for your child to throw his glider safely.
- Review the "Slider’s Glider" handout.
- Make Slider's Glider for demonstration with your child. Use the 3- and 6-segment strips as described on the handout.
- Optional: Preview the episode or clip, and if using them with your child, cue up the videos via the links above.
- Ask your child if he's ever wanted to make a change to something to make it work differently or better. Explain that inventors do this, too. First they identify a key feature (or features) that needs changing, and think about how they could change it to improve the invention's performance. Then they test each change and keep track of the results. This part of the invention process is called refining and optimizing.
- Optional: Use the episode or clip to further explore this idea.
- Give your child the "Slider's Glider" and "Test Results" handout. Explain that Slider needs his help. He invented a new type of air glider that uses rings instead of wings, abut wants to make it glide farther. How might he change his design so it does this?
- Use the glider you made ahead of time to test how far Slider's model glides. Measure the distance with your child, and then review the "Test Results" handout so he understands how to record his test results.
- Ask your child to follow the directions on the handout to get started. As he works, ask questions or make comments to keep him on track. Ask:What part of the glider do you want to change? Should you use different-sized loops? Add more loops? Put the loops in different places on the straw? As your child experiments, encourage him to make just one change at a time before testing the results. That way, he can keep track of what effect his change has on the glider's flight.
- Once your child has found the design that glides the farthest, invite him to share what changes he made to get the results he wanted.
Take it Further
Share this activity's Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) connections and invite your child's comments:
Inventors test their devices, make changes to them, and then test them again to see whether the changes improved performance. This part of the inventing process is called refining and optimizing. In this activity, you worked with Slider's invention and experimented with changes to help it fly farther.
Talk About It
Ask:What did you learn about inventing from this activity that you didn’t know before?