The Wright brothers achieved flight on December 17,1903, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the US. This was not their first attempt. The Wright brothers had field-tested several different planes before arriving at the successful prototype. Including that one, there were four prototypes in all. For the sake of paying tribute to the fame of the Wright brothers' first flight, most models are of the 1903 prototype plane. The materials needed are simple and it is a project that students at school or model makers can enjoy.
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Things you need
- Meat trays
- Lollypop sticks
- Balsa wood – 3mm (1/8inch) by 3mm (1/8inch) by 76.2cm (30inch)
- Glue gun
- Hobby knife
- Cutting board
- Fine-tipped black marker
- Emery board
- Manila folder
- Clear plastic sheet
Click the "1903 template" hyperlink to download the PDF file of the 1903 template from the NASA: Wright brothers 1903 flyer model Instructions webpage (see reference below). Cut out the template pieces from the paper with the scissors. Place the template pieces onto the foam meat trays. Outline them with the fine-tipped marker. Cut the pieces out with the hobby knife. Repeat the process to make two sets of the template.
Smooth the edges of the foam pieces with the emery board. Use the printed-out template as a guide to mark the locations of the rib lines on the wings. Make two sets of marks, one on each side of the wing. Connect the marks with the fine-tipped marker to make the rib lines. Apply glue to the flat edges of the wing halves and put them together to form two singular wingspans out of the four halves.
Use the template as a guide to where the vertical poles that tether the top wing and bottom wing together meet. Poke a hole at each of those places with a toothpick. Apply a small amount of glue to the end of a toothpick and insert the toothpick into the hole. Apply glue and insert the toothpick into each of the holes, as dictated by the template.
Flip the wing over. Make sure each toothpick is vertically facing downward. Stick the top wing into the lower wing. Check and make sure the toothpicks are sticking into the ribs you drew on the lower wing. Apply glue to the toothpick sticking into the lower wing to secure it.
Cut eight toothpicks into 2.5-centimetre long spears. Use the template as a guide to draw the ribs onto the two small wings. Mark the wings, with a toothpick, where the vertical poles should be installed according to the template. Apply glue onto the spears and stick them into the holes you marked. Turn the wing upside down, so that the spears are sticking vertically down. Stick the spears into the lower wing through the ribs you drew onto the lower wing. Apply glue to the spears that were stuck into the lower wing to secure the connection of foam to toothpick.
Click on the "1903 skid template" hyperlink (see reference below). Print out the template. Cut a 14cm (5.5inch) piece of balsa wood with a handsaw and lay it on the template for the "A" piece. Cut a toothpick to a length of 2.5 centimetres (0.98inch) and lay it on the template for the "B" piece. Glue the pieces together. Repeat the process to make another.
Push the toothpick that made up the "B" piece into the small dual wing that was just assembled. Make sure each "B" toothpick is pushed into the rib that is the third rib from the outside of the wing on each side of the wing. Remove the "B" toothpicks, apply glue to each sharp end and reinsert them into the small dual wing.
Cut two toothpicks to a length of 4.5cm (1.77inch). Apply glue to the tips of both toothpicks and place them in the middle of the balsa wood "A" pieces to act as a cross-brace across the two slabs of balsa wood. Cut two toothpicks to a length of 3cm (1.18); these two pieces are the "E" and "F" parts of the template. Glue the "E" and "F" parts onto "A" according to the template. Repeat the process for the second "A" piece. Place a toothpick onto the "G" part of the template. Cut the toothpick to fit the "G" part on the template. Repeat the process to make a second "G" part. Glue the toothpick to fit at an angle to "A" and "F" according to the template. Glue the second toothpick between the "A" and "F" on the other complimentary piece of the plane.
Lay a piece of balsa on the template, covering the "C" piece. Cut the balsa wood with a handsaw to fit the shape of the "C" picture on the template. Cut another piece of balsa wood for the other side of the skid of the plane. Glue them into place according to the template.
Press the "E" and "F" toothpicks into the middle of the main wingspan. Aim to pierce the toothpicks through the ribs as performed earlier; this will result in a cleaner appearance. Add some glue to the "E" and "F" toothpicks where they meet the foam to solidify the bond between foam and toothpick.
Lay a piece of balsa wood on the template covering the "D" piece. Sharpen one end with the emery board. Glue it onto the skid according to the "D" position on the template. Repeat the process to put a "D" piece of balsa wood on the other side of the skid.
Cut six toothpicks into spears that are 2cm (0.79inch) long. Sharpen the other side of the toothpick with the emery board. Glue the tips and stick them into the rudder pieces you previously cut out from the white foam meat tray. Stick a toothpick into each corner of the rectangle. Stick the two remainder toothpicks into the middle of the lengths of the rectangle. Flip the foam piece so that the spears are facing vertically down. Press these spears into the other, similar piece of foam. Apply glue to join the toothpick to the new foam piece--this makes the rudder of the plane.
Hold the rudder vertically. Place a toothpick between a rudder crossbar (that was made by the 2cm/0.79inch-long toothpick) and the top wing. Glue the toothpick into place. Place two toothpicks onto the bottom rudder crossbar that connect that crossbar to the skid of the plane, where the "A" pieces and "G" pieces meet on both sides of the skid--this will resemble the letter "V".
Note, on the "1930 skid template", the picture that was not used yet as a guide. Lay toothpicks onto the template pieces, mark them where they should be cut and cut them to fit the template pieces. Glue them together; now you have the support for the propeller. Repeat the process to make another propeller support. Hold them vertically and glue them to the top wing and the lower wing, spanning the two.
Cut two circles 7.2cm (2.83inch) in diameter from the clear plastic sheet by tracing the circle with a compass and then cutting them out with scissors. Draw pieces of smaller circles within the circle you cut out to simulate the motion of a propeller. Place a lollypop stick along the diameter of the circle and cut it to fit the circle. Smooth out the edges of the lollypop stick to fit the curvature of the circle. Repeat the process to make the second propeller. Glue the propellers onto their respective supports.
Tips and warnings
- The meat trays should be 23cm (9inch) by 28cm (11inch) and white in colour.
- The glue gun should be a low-heat-level glue gun.
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