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Kites by Danielle and Jasmine

Kites are colorful and graceful, but they're also fierce competitors. We love to enter kite-flying contests, and we're serious about winning. Our question is: How does our kite's shape affect its performance? Which kite lets us maneuver our way to victory?

What did we do?
Kites come in all kinds of shapes and designs, including Delta, Diamond, Box, Sled, and single- or double-string varieties. We chose a two-stringed Delta kite, and selected three shapes: tall and narrow, short and wide, and something in between. For each style, we tested how well it performed three maneuvers: the figure eight, the square, and a ballet move called the Cascade. We rated each kite's performance on a scale of 1-10.

What did we find out?
The shape of each kite affected the way the wind flowed around it, meaning that the wind pushed each style around differently. The tall and narrow kite performed beautifully on the figure eight and square, but it couldn't do the Cascade at all! The short and wide did a perfect Cascade, but couldn't do a figure eight or square. The medium kite did a mediocre job on all the stunts. I decided to use the tall and narrow kite for the stunt competition, and the short and wide kite for the ballet. I took first place in the ballet!

What can you do?
  • Ever notice how some kites have tails and some don't? Build or buy a diamond kite, and make several lengths of tail, using ribbon from a craft store. Attach one tail at a time, and fly the kite, paying attention to how easily it takes off, and how well it flies.
  • How does the shape of a kite affect the angle it flies at? Design an investigation to find out.
  • Another fun investigation with kites is to make the smallest kite you can that still flies. Try a bunch of different designs and find the one that catches air the best, even though it's little.
  • Use this kite investigation as a science fair project idea for your elementary or middle school science fair! Then tell us about it!
more resources
More on forces of flight.

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