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Aerodynamics: The Wright way

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By Christina Bakerwriter, teacher and educational journalist

Science: Use the story of flight to help children’s scientific skills really take off


The Wright brothers inspired modern-day aerodynamics

Long before the legend of Icarus, humans watched birds in flight and dreamed of sharing the same power. By the time Wilbur and Orville Wright emerged onto the scene, this dream had built up to a frenzied obsession. The world eagerly awaited the invention of the aeroplane, however, existing models could do little more than hop briefly off the ground. The most valuable piece of the puzzle, a means of controlling the aircraft, still eluded inventors.

In childhood, the Wright brothers were naturally curious and fortunate enough to have a family that nurtured this trait. When their father presented them with a working toy helicopter, their undying fascination with flight was sparked. They played with the beloved contraption endlessly and, when it broke, they built their own.

As adults, Wilbur and Orville understood the importance of research and investigation. They scrutinised the existing information about aviation, learning from others’ mistakes and successes. They observed the way birds tilt their heads and lean to change direction. Through rigorous box-kite flying trials, they tested the way the movement of different designs could be controlled.

The Wright brothers’ journey to flying success was filled with many ups and downs. To continue reading their amazing story, access the activity sheets ‘Aerodynamics: the Wright way’ to print off and share with your class.

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