glide angle

Glider Glide Angle

from Middle : : Aerospace Technology

To investigate glide angle, experiment with a straw rocket.

Design a rocket and experiment with angle-of-attack by launching it at different angles and predicting the distance traveled. Since the rocket is simply a glider, it is in a steady (constant velocity and no acceleration) descent; it loses altitude as it travels.

The glider’s flight path is a simple straight line, shown as the inclined red line in the figure. The flight path intersects the ground at an angle a called the glide angle. If we know the distance flown d and the altitude change h, we can calculate the glide angle using trigonometry: tan(a) = h / d where tan is the trigonometric tangent function.

The ratio of the change in altitude h to the change in distance d is often called the glide ratio.

How will weight distribution and size affect the rocket?

Design 3 different rockets using the supplies. Use the launcher to gather the information needed to fill out the form. Keep track of the rocket that traveled the farthest.

What factors affected the distance the rocket traveled?

Design and build the rocket using the clay to form the nose cone, the cardboard to create the fins and the straw will serve as the body tube.

Predict how far you think your rocket will travel. Use the launcher and launch your rocket at the designated angles. With each launch, measure and record the distance. Complete the evaluation of your prediction and discuss what you could have done to make your rocket go farther.

template – introduction

  • So, How Far Did It Go?

1. Straws 2. Index Cards or colored construction paper 3. Clay 4. Scissors 5. Clear Tape 6. Ruler 7. Paper 8. Pencil 9. Pitsco Straw Launcher 10. Craft Paper (optional)

1. 10cm to 20 cm long 2. 2 fins to 5 fins 3. Clay nose cone no bigger then 2 cm in diameter

Teacher directions:
Place in a numbered plastic or paper bag the following items: 1. Straw
2. 1 index card or construction paper 3. 2cm wide round ball of clay 4. pair of scissors 5. a ruler
6. roll of tape 7. 2 white 8 1⁄2’x 11’ blank paper
a. 1 for drawing b. 1 for graphing


  • 1. Hand out pre-sorted materials to the students that have been placed into groups of 3 or four.
  • 2. Have student watch straw video and follow along with Dr. Zoon.
  • 3. 1st the student should come up with a drawing of their rocket. Each group member can design his or her own idea. Take paper and pencil and draw the straw. Make sure they meet the specifications above. Then draw 3 different types of fins. Select which fin your group wants to use.
  • 4. Draw the winning fin to the sketch. Draw them at the bottom of the rocket.
  • 5. Draw what your nose cone will look like and add it to your sketch.
  • 6. Building the rocket. Compare length of your straw with your sketch and if it meets the specifications, cut it to length.
  • 7. Building the fins. Make a pattern onto the index card. Cut out four fins that look exactly alike. Put your name on one of the fins in pen. Try and do nesting when you do this. (nesting=when you rotation the fin patterns and cut them the same) Make sure you have 4 identical fins.
  • 8. Attaching fins. Attach tape to one side of the fin so that the tape hangs over 1⁄2 way. Attach fin to the bottom of the rocket as shown. The second fin should be attached on the opposite side of the first fin. Attach remaining fins so that they are evenly spaced around the rocket body. Check to see that they are inline with the rocket body. Trim any left over tape with the scissors.
  • 9. Building the nose cone. Shape the nose cone using your fingers to match your design you drew earlier. Attach it to the top of the rocket. Make sure it covers the end of the straw. Reshape it as needed.
  • 10. Compare your rocket to your sketch. 11. You should be ready to launch now!

Each student will build one rocket in their group of different lengths. They will use the same wing design and size, as well as the same shape and size of nose cone.
Launch the rocket at 15, 30, 60 and 75 degrees. Drop the lever from the fourth line on the shaft. Record your data on the attached sheet. Draw a graph and predict what the distance will be at 45 degrees. Now test your rocket at 45 degrees and see if your chart is correct.

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