Paper Airplane Day transforms children into young engineers

By Ariel Graham | DFW Newsflash | April 2017

Children from around DFW let their creations take flight during Paper Airplane Day on Thursday, March 16 at the Frontiers of Flight museum in Dallas.

The museum opened its hanger to children who wanted to try their hand at making an aircraft of their own. Children were able to choose one of three different planes to build, from a traditional “dart” airplane to a wide-winged “glider.” The young engineers were allowed to test their creations’ accuracy, distance and time aloft through a series of challenges.

Dr. Jason Treadway, the education director for the museum, hoped the event would teach kids about airplane design.

“The learning objective here is that not all airplanes are the same,” Treadway said. “You can see biplanes. You can see monoplanes. One plane has the wings up top. One has the wings down below and so on. The size, shape, and geometry of the wings varies. Some kids might think that all airplanes are the same, but they’re not. You can really see that by simply folding a paper airplane.”

For the past three years, Frontiers of Flight has offered kids a different themed event each day during Dallas Independent School District’s spring break. Other theme days for this year included Helicopter Day, Solar System Day and Flight Simulator Day. Each of the events had a strong focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

“Most everything that we do here is STEM-focused, and the idea of these programs is to bring STEM alive,” Treadway said. “By folding these different airplanes, kids can see the different physics principles at work. It’s a practical example of what they may learn in school.

“There is a huge deficiency in college-ready students. There’s a huge void in the industry for STEM workers. We import a lot of STEM workers in this country, we’re not preparing future scientists and engineers to go into those fields. We want to make sure that we do our part to encourage kids to continue on with those STEM studies in hopes that they will end up doing a career in a STEM field.”

Jessica Hawkins of Dallas brought her children, William and Lyle, and her nephew Leland, to the event.

“We usually come probably every season just to play and look around,” Hawkins said. “My father was a private pilot, so we’ve just always loved flying and airplanes.”

Eric Davy of Austin brought his family to the museum. He shared Treadway’s sentiments about the importance of getting kids excited about technology at an early age.

“[Aviation is important] for the science and technology aspect of it. If kids get involved in that, it could lead to other things,” Davy said. “I think it’s good that they get exposure to that kind of stuff.”By Joe Snell | DFW Newsflash | August 2017