Hoop Glider

By using paper hoops that act as wings, students discover how to make a straw glide through the air. They experiment with hoop size, placement, and other factors to see how far their glider can fly.



Per Individual:

  • paper
  • ruler
  • scissors
  • penciil
  • nonbendable, plastic drinking straw
  • tape


  1. Cut two strips of paper.
    • Make one strip 1 inch wide and 5 inches long.
    • Make the second strip 1 inch wide and 10 inches long.
  2. Curl each paper strip into a hoop. Tape the ends together. Now you have a big hoop and a small hoop.
  3. Tape the small hoop to one end of the straw.’Tape the big hoop on the other end of the straw. Make sure the big hoop lines up with the small hoop.
  4. Hold your Hoop Glider in the middle of the straw, with the small hoop in front. Throw it gently like a spear. It might take some practice to get the hang of it. How far does your glider fly?


Change your glider so that it flies the longest possible distance. What happens if you make the straw smaller? What happens if you change the size of the hoops? Or, what happens if you add a third hoop?

Choose one thing to change (that’s the variable), and make a prediction. Then test it and send your results to ZOOM.

Engineering & science connections

If you throw a plain straw, it doesn’t go very far. But when you add paper hoops, the straw glides through the air. That’s because the hoops act like wings. Things that fly – like insects, birds, and airplanes – all have wings. But wings are not all the same shape and size. Different wings can be better for different kinds of flight. For example, an eagle has long, wide wings that help it glide. An airplane has wings with small flaps that move up and down to turn the plane. Try changing the wings on your glider. How dies it fly with different wings?

ZOOM INTO ENGINEERING is a partnership of WGBH and National Engineers Week. National Engineers Week 2002 chairs: DuPont and the American Society of Civil Engineers. © 2001 WGBH Educational Foundation.All rights reserved. ZOOM and the ZOOM words and related indicia are trademarks of the WGBH Educational Foundation. Used with permission. ZOOM is produced by WGBH Boston. Funding for ZOOM is provided by the National Science Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and public television viewers.Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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