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.

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.



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.


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.

Video of it Spinning out of the Platform

Abi Tenenbaum

Video of it Flying

Abi Tenenbaum

Video of it Working

Abi Tenenbaum


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.


Richard Lourie and Myles Lack-Zell

Our prompt was to create a flying object. At the beginning of the studio the coaches gave us inspiration such as planes or helicopters and then we were assigned partners. Our project was going to be a cuttlefish but we wanted to do something free-flying so we settled on an ornithopter. We based our design on a project from It had two pairs of wings on top of each other and is powered by a rubber band. We thought it would be pretty cool to add steering so we put two flaps on the wings. Then we decided that a rubber band was not reliable enough to power the design. So we added a motor on the back to control the flapping mechanism. After that we moved the steering to the tail where we put a rudder and an elevator. After that we tried to find a way to mount the servos for the steering. Eventually we settled on a design with the servos mounted on a back stabilizer.

For the wing mechanism of our ornithopter, we started off by making a flat model of the mechanism to see how it works. After that we moved on to making the mechanism into something that could be powered by a motor, since the model was hand powered originally. In the end, we created a wing flapping mechanism that easily mounts onto the ornithopter and has the wings glued on to it. The wing mechanism of our ornithopter is able to move the wings easily, but does not have enough power to generate lift. Because the wings are very short, they are also unable to generate any lift. In our next iteration, we hope to make larger wings and use a powerful motor since we want to be able to make our ornithopter fly.

First we made a two foot model of the back to see it in comparison to the wing mechanism. Then we made a one foot version after seeing that the first one was too big. After that we made one that was two feet again but much thinner. Then we added a way to connect it to the body. After that we cut out large chunks of our design to make it much lighter. In the end the elevator and rudder used for steering worked very well. In the next iteration I hope that we will be able to see if the mechanism is actually able to turn the ornithopter.

Our project is an ornithopter. It has two pairs of wings placed vertically on top of one another. It is turned by an elevator and a rudder at the end of a long, bulbous tail. There are three small pieces attaching a long rod to the back part. Unfortunately it is not able to fly because the relatively small wings cannot support the weight of the ornithopter.


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