Helicoptor Algebra

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Based on a lesson plan provided by Anthony Harradine and the Noel Baker Institute

Commerce Building, Otago University

Lesson Outline

Cardboard helicopters are made using a template. They are then launched from the highest inside space possible. Their flight time is recorded. The blade length is adjusted and the helicopter is relaunched and the flight time is again recorded. The process is repeated as long as possible. The blade lengths are plotted against flight times and an equation formed modelling the relationship. An optimum blade length is predicted from the model and then as many helicopters as possible are set at this optimum length an launched simulltaneously.

Learning Outcomes


  • Blade length
  • Helicopter mass - alternative relational variable
  • Limits of accuracy
  • Vertical distance travelled by helicopter
    • Practical Trig
      • Right and non-right angled triangles
      • Clinometer
      • Thedolite
      • EDM


  • Sample Mean and Variation of Flight times as a function of blade length
  • Statistical Presentation
  • Bivariate Data
  • Modelling


  • Independent variable
  • Dependent variable
  • Coordinate pairs
  • Plotting points
  • Sketching Quadratics
  • Maxima and minima


  • Introduction of variable
  • Forming equations
  • Substitution
  • Solving Quadratics
  • Rearranging Formula


Lesson Plan








Cross-Curricula Possibilities

  • Science
    • Physics of Flight
    • Timing Technology
  • Social Studies
    • History of Flight
    • Social Impact of Flight
  • English
    • Report on Event
    • Static image poster
  • Media Studies
    • Filming of Event
  • Computing
    • Creation of Podcast
    • Updating Wiki, Moodle, etc
  • Technology
    • Materials
    • Design