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Rubber Band Powered Flying Machines

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Rubber Band Powered Flying Machines

Cover of the book/experiment kit Rubber Band Powered Flying Machines by Pat Murphy and the Scientists at Klutz Labs.

Klutz Labs

The Bottom Line

This kit allows for the creation of some great rubber band powered, propeller-driven flying machines. It's a great all-in-one kit to build airplanes and learn the science behind flight. You don't get a lot of control over how they fly, and a couple of serious crashes will destroy the wings beyond repair, but until then you'll have some great fun with them and get some hands-on experience with aerodynamic concepts.
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Pros

  • A great introduction to propeller-driven airplanes, powered by rubber bands.
  • Excellent prelude to remote control airplanes, so you can learn principles of aerodynamics.

Cons

  • Wings are very flimsy and may not last many flights without requiring repair.
  • No direct control over the flight path.

Description

  • Created by Pat Murphy and the Scientists of Klutz Labs
  • Contains everything needed to create three different airplane designs - Firebird, Shooting Star, and Lightning Looper
  • Designed for ages 8 and up

Guide Review - Rubber Band Powered Flying Machines

This kit from Klutz Labs is one of the most fun aeronautics kits that I've worked with. It's more complex than their Foam Glider or Foam Rocket designs, which makes sense because it's intended for an older age range. The result is a much more sophisticated flying experience than either of those machines, but also one which runs the risk of a much shorter shelf life ... because these planes have a much greater chance of unexpectedly colliding with a tree, fence, or other obstacle.

The kit includes the parts and instructions for creating three different styles of airplanes: Firebird, Shooting Star, and Lightning Looper.

The book has a lot of material about the science of the underlying aeronautics principles behind the different designs, and how to perform tweaks and customizations that will impact the flight path of the planes.

As opposed to some other kits, this is an excellent all-in-one set to introduce students to the principles behind flight.

One of the coolest thing about this is just holding the airplane as the rubber band causes the propeller to twirl, creating life. When you let go of the airplane, the plane just instantly pulls forward and flies up into the air. It's really fun to watch the plane flying through the air, in a way that just a glider can't come even close to capturing, no matter how many loop the loops you can customize it into doing. Seeing all of this running off of a simple rubber band is just great.

The biggest drawback of this kit is that the wings just aren't that strong, so a few collisions - or even indelicate handling while carrying the plane - can easily damage the wings so severely that further flights aren't possible. We had problems with the wings of the Firebird after just two flights and had to tape it up pretty heavily, and then my son bent one of the wings while picking it up and it never flew straight again.

Despite the difficulties of working with the wings, the kit results in three great planes that have their own virtues. Kids can really have fun with them, as long as care is taken to keep them intact. With some extra tools - clear tape, pliers, and maybe a stick to get the plane out of trees when it gets stuck - you can keep flying in fun and exciting ways for quite some time.

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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