How to Make Styrofoam Gliders

Written by dawn marcotte | 13/05/2017
How to Make Styrofoam Gliders
Toy gliders can help children learn about flight. (paper toy plane_1 image by ivan gusev from

Gliders are aeroplanes without motors or other power source. Experimenting with a model glider will help students understand the importance of weight and balance when designing aeroplanes. Styrofoam gliders are easier to make than balsa wood gliders and last longer than paper aeroplanes. Styrofoam meat trays or plates can be used as the basic building materials.

Lay the clean styrofoam tray on a flat surface. Place the paper template (See Resources) on top of the styrofoam sheet and tape in place so it does not move while being traced. Use the pencil to trace around the template for the body and wings. Press firmly on the template so an impression is made on the styrofoam underneath and trace the aileron and flaps on the large wings, the elevator on the small wings and the rudder on the body of the plane. Use the sharpened end of the pencil to poke holes through the body template where the wings and elevator will be inserted to make an outline of where to cut the additional holes needed.

Remove the template from the tray and cut out all of the parts of the plane with a utility knife. Cut out the slot for the wings and the elevator as well. Cut slits along the short lines for the flaps, aileron and elevator so the parts become movable. Do not cut them off. Sand all of the edges of the pieces of the aeroplane.

Insert the large wings in the body of the plane with the aileron and flaps facing the back of the plane. Insert the small wings in the small slot at the back of the plane. Throw the glider for a test flight and adjust the wings as needed. Add a paper clip to the nose of the plane to add weight and improve the distance the glider will fly.


Washable paint or markers do not work well on styrofoam. Use stickers or glue paper decorations to the plane.

Tips and warnings

  • Washable paint or markers do not work well on styrofoam. Use stickers or glue paper decorations to the plane.

Things you need

  • Clean styrofoam tray
  • Glider pattern
  • Tape
  • Sharp pencil
  • Utility knife
  • Sandpaper or emery board
  • Paper clip
  • Markers

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