Video of it Working

Abi Tenenbaum

Video of it Flying

Abi Tenenbaum

Video of it Spinning out of the Platform

Abi Tenenbaum


Myles Lack-Zell and Richard Lourie

Our idea was to create an ornithopter that could be steered from from a remote control. Ornithopters usually only go in one direction because the flapping of the wings interfere with the steering. We wanted to be able to make an ornithopter that could stop flapping, steer, and start flapping again. The goal of the studio was to create a flying sculpture. Our project fulfils this goal because if we were able to finish it, we would have made it look like a dragonfly. This would have made it into a fun, interactive sculpture.


Sophia Thurau-Gray and Nuradin Bhatti

Our idea was to create a flying squirrel. Our inspiration came from thinking how some animals, humans included are not physically designed to create their own flight but still find a way to fly. This brought us to gliding. We found the gliding squirrel, which without needing any type of wings can glide between trees. We liked the idea of taking materials you would not expect to fly like wood glue and cloth and making something that can fly without anything to continue its motion.

Our design problem was to create something that could fly but put a new spin on the ideas of traditional flight. We decided to solve this based on the concept that people are not meant to fly but they still do, just like our wooden figure.

This project was very important for us because we both learned a lot about the aerodynamic properties of gliding. We also learned how to design ased on the properties of our material to maximize both the lift provided as well as the lightness.


Nuradin Bhatti and Sophia Thurau-Gray
1 / 16

We were prompted with designing a new take on the concept of traditional flight. We looked to how flying in occurs in nature. Besides by flying with wings we found that some animals glide through the air: Flying squirrels. We decided to make a gliding object in the shape of a squirrel.

We began with a simple design of a bead (with ears), four legs and a body this was based off our original sketches and we cut it out of cardboard and used felt to cover the wings. Although we knew a lot had to be changed in the material and balance of our design our first prototype started us in the right direction. We saw that even with not ideal materials it had the potential to glide very well. We  decided that this would be our design and except for some minor changes and different size, it was.

Our second iteration was made out of thin wood and cotton cloth. In this prototype we made the leap to the materials we planed to use for our final. It was important to begin using our final materials early on but it was the balance brought through trial and error that would make or flying squirrel fly more than anything else.

For our following iterations we improved the stability of our Squirrel. We began by adding ribs to the bottom of the squirrel for the design to connect back to the act that our design was based on areal squirrel skeleton as well as to help launch the squirrel. We also created a larger wingspan to provide even more lift. We also adding a back fin for stability that we later hollowed out to make it lighter and covered with fabric.

In the end the simplicity and uncomplicated design of the gliding squirrel is what made it fly so well.

Studio Description

David Wang

This studio explores the principles of flight and challenges students to apply them towards building their own flying objects. Students will learn about the equations of lift, stability margins, and airfoil design: foundational concepts that explain how things fly. Through simple hands-on experiments, they will experience how the variables in these concepts relate to real-world measurements and how their relationships inform the design of flying objects. Students will also learn practical fabrication skills critical to building light-weight and durable aircraft such as how to build structural space-trusses, foam-cutting, and adhesive selection and usage. They will bring these skills together with radio-controlled electronics and brushless motors to breathe life into their own flying creations.


Abi Tenenbaum
1 / 14

Our original idea was to design and create a top that you could drop. When it fell through the air, it would start to spin, and when it hit the ground it would spin on its own. Basically we wanted to make a top that could spin itself without electronics.

Iteration 1: At first, we thought of pea pods that fall from trees and how they slowly spin through the air. We decided that we wanted to make a top that had wings similar to the falling pods. We decided to make wings that a remote could make go up and down. This would let the top gain even more speed and fall faster. Kind of like how a figure skater spins faster when she puts her leg up and make herself aerodynamic. We also designed a mechanism that would detach the top from the wings, thus letting it fall peacefully to the ground and go on spinning without bulky wings to unbalance it. We made a model, in the hopes that it would at least spin, but it just spun out of control.

Iteration 2: We decided to redesign the top with weights in it in the form of washers, which would help us lower the center of gravity and allow the model stay upright. It just fell to the ground.

Iteration 3: We realized that a small and light pod falling through the air is something that you can't scale up. The air has the same density all the time, so you can't make a giant pod and expect it to glide down slowly. It's just too heavy and impossible. To prove our point and close this section of the project, we made a small model made up of a folded index card and a teeny tiny top on a stick. It spun perfectly, but we couldn't fit anything else on it, so we ended discussions about scaling it up.

Iteration 4: We decided instead to design a top that housed electronics inside it and had a propeller sticking out of it to allow it to spin itself. We decided to print the top in two halves, to allow us to access the electronics inside after the top is sealed. We also made screw holes so that we can open the top up. We realized that if the top somehow falls over, the propeller will hit the ground, so we designed and laser cut a safe guard ring around the top to catch it before the propeller can reach the ground. When we printed our design, it turned out that the printer made everything smaller and disrupted the perfectly measured compartments we had created inside.

Iteration 5: We reprinted a top that was completely hollow inside and attached everything in there to see how it would work. It turned out that it was extremely unstable and unbalanced, so we made another model on Rhino.

Iteration 6: We added ribs to support the top and prevent the inside components from sliding and spinning with the top. We created 8 holes in the top's sides to be able to add screws. These would act as weights to balance the spinning top.

Iteration 7: In our final model, we also added more holes in the top of the top to make room for the wires to run from the inside to the outside.

This final model worked! We hadn't realized it, but actually, the spinning propeller stabilized the top and we didn't need any of the balancing screws.


Noah Grunebaum and Abi Tenenbaum
1 / 6

Our goal for this studio was to create a spinning top that could fly or fall and continue spinning when it reaches the ground.  We 3D printed the top in two halves to allow the electronics to be stored in a central cavity.  We decided to mount a motor with a propeller on the top of the top, using it to both control flight as well as spin.  The interior of the top is mostly hollow with ribs along the sides to keep the electronics from spinning around.  To optimize the stability, we added eight holes around the outside of the top.  Whichever area may need additional weight, a bolt will be inserted into a hole.

Our final product worked extremely well.  If we had more time to improve our project we would like to have been able to control the the direction that it moves across a surface

Process Post

Cole Kissam and Jonah Stillman

Our project in the Flying Objects studio was to create an air hockey game that required no air hockey table. While we were told balancing self-propelled objects was very difficult, our expectations of what we could accomplish were very reasonable and we decided to use a propeller all the same. We decided to create a puck, that looks like a UFO, and have it propel itself upwards off of the ground.  Then it could be used on any flat surface, and could be used at any time. 

    Our first iteration was a very simple a cardboard cut-out that had a cylindrical shape that would hold a propeller. The rationality behind this was to simply get our ideas out on the table, and build a general and basic prototype.  We found that the cardboard was too light to be durable, and that it was very effective for gaining lift.  This marked the constant struggle of our design, finding the balance between proper durability and lightweight material.  

    Our second iteration was this time made of a 3D printed material and was much too heavy to obtain lift. However it taught us many valuable lessons, including how to attach the LEDs we wanted to introduce and the proper way to wire them. It also taught us that we needed to make things as lightweight as possible. This was the most important lesson we learned from this iteration.

    The next iteration was again 3D printed but made out of much thinner plastic and used much less plastic period.  This was very successful at looking sleek and being durable, but was still too heavy to obtain lift with the motor we had.  We decided that it would be necessary to use a material lighter than plastic, and so we went on to a 3mm thick laser cut wood frame.  This model would go on to be our final as it was just light enough to obtain lift.  However we learned that this wood model would not be as durable or aesthetically pleasing as the plastic model.  A way to improve on our project would have been to very simply find a stronger propeller and motor to power our device.  Although our device sacrificed durability for speed and lift, it did function very well at its job, and could achieve lift and torque on many surfaces.