Making a Flying Saucer

This lesson developed by Reach Out!

Recommended Age: Preschool and Early Elementary


How can I design and make a flying saucer that will fly?

What You Will Need

What You Do

  1. Put the 1 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon of salt into the pan. Put the pan on the stove or hot plate and turn up high enough so you can bring this to a boil. If you are allowed to cook, go ahead and do this on your own. If you aren't, get an adult to help you out!

  2. When the water is at a rolling boil, add 4 tablespoons of oatmeal. Put it in one tablespoon at a time and mix it up well. If you dump it all in at once, it sometimes globs up and won't mix well and smoothly. Keep stirring so the oatmeal doesn't settle and stick to the bottom of the pan.
  3. Turn the heat down to a low setting and cook for about 8 or 10 minutes. Keep stirring it! Then take the pan off the burner and put on a hot pad and let the oatmeal cool down.
  4. Put a big piece of newspaper down on your desk or table. Then, get your pie plate, your pieces of newspaper, and your oatmeal mix together in front of you.
  5. Think about the shape you want your flying saucer to be. Bend the pie pan into the shape that you think will fly best.
  6. Take one strip of newspaper at a time and dip into the oatmeal mix. Spread the mix on the strip of newspaper with your fingers so it is nice and smooth and well covered all over. Put the strips of newspaper on your pie tin one at a time. You are creating a surface and body for your flying saucer using what is called papier-mâché. After you get the first layer on your pie plate, let it sit and dry before you add another layer. Keep adding layers until you get the body of your flying saucer just the way you want it. If you put several layers of newspaper on the pie pan at one time, they won't dry.
  7. Try your flying saucer out. See if it needs more weight anywhere and add layers as you think you need them. Think about adding layers to the center or to the outer edges of your flying saucer. When it is the way you want it, you can decorate it with marking pens or paint.

What Is Happening

When an object is able to float and move through the air, we say it is "airborne." This means it has "lift." When you throw the flying saucer into the air with a quick flick of your wrist as you do when you throw a frisbee, you are making the flying saucer spin. The spinning keeps the saucer in balance. When the saucer is in the air, the air slows it down gradually and it drops or descends.

Think about the shape and weight of your flying saucer. What do you think makes for better flying? If the flying saucer is really heavy, it will be hard to get into the air and it will want to drop and fall faster than if it were lighter. Where you have the heaviest part of the saucer will also affect it. If it has heavier areas around the outer edge than it does in the middle of it, it will be hard to fly.

Experiment with making several different shapes and weights of flying saucers. You will learn a lot about aerodynamics and how to build and make things to fly.

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