Estes Glider Challenge - Unit Plan

Grades 6-8 | 7 (45 min) Classes

Topics Covered

Forces of Flight | Motion and Stability | Gathering Data

Essential Question

Can you bring job to children by creating a paper glider?


We have a natural desire to extend our capabilities and make life easier and more enjoyable for ourselves and others. Every human is wired to create solutions to challenges in their life. Think about a toddler you might know. Every day toddlers ask questions, imagine possibilities, plan, create something new, test, improve then share successes and failures. This process is 100% natural. People, both big and small, learn by doing. In this project, students will learn the art and engineering that goes into building a solution to a simple problem.

Estes Rockets is a model rocket company located in Penrose, Colorado. It is known as the “Model Rocket Capital of the World”. Since 1958, they have opened the world of experiential learning opportunities in the fields of aerospace, science, technology, engineering, math, and arts to millions of people. In this design challenge, students will be helping the engineers at Estes Rockets design a paper glider model for a new line of aerospace products. Engineers often create small models of a product to test and evaluate a design. This is especially true with flying vehicles. Model testing tells engineers how to adjust their designs to meet the project requirements for the client and end user. Students will be introduced to the engineering design process and apply the 4C’s (creativity, communication, critical thinking, and collaboration). A Student Design Portfolio is included to help students track the excitement and learning experience.


Each Student Needs:

  • Student Design Portfolio
  • Paper 8.5" x 11"
  • Pencil
  • Tape
  • 3″ x 5″ Notecards

Each Classroom Needs:

  • Art Supplies (Variety Needed)
  • Measuring Wheel or Yardstick



MS-PS2-2 Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions

Plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object’s motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object.

MS-ETS 1-4 Engineering Design

Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.

Common Core Standards not available for this lesson plan.

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A type of engineer that focuses on problems related to atmospheric and space flight such as aircrafts and spacecrafts.


The aerodynamic force that opposes an aircraft’s motion through the air.


The ability to understand, be aware of, and share feelings and experiences of another person.


A series of steps and processes engineers use to find a solution to a problem.


A Motorless flying vehicle.


A feeling of great happiness caused by something delightful, good, or satisfying.


The force that directly opposes the weight of an aircraft and holds an aircraft in the air.


A person that operates the controls of a vehicle or aircraft.


A first model from which other models are developed.


The propulsive force that moves something forward.


the amount of gravitational pull exerted onto an object.

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