S.T.E.M. Fun with Foam Flyers in Three Easy Step

by FoamyDM | February 16, 2017 | (0) Posted in How To

S.T.E.M. Fun with Foam Flyers in Three Easy Steps



With the swell of the geek movement where having a head for science, tech and math are in, means a big push to incorporate Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) everywhere children are educated. It was happening in Scouts too, but when I asked my local council at the time about where our plan was… it was crickets. There was word things were coming, but nothing had been organized yet. As with all new things it takes one brave fool to step forward and say “Let’s do THIS!”

As a new member of Cub Scout Leadership role as Pack 745 Wolf Den Leader there comes a load of training. Late last year I attended the best Leadership training course I've been to dollar for dollar. Wood Badge. I highly recommend it, but that isn't why I'm writing this. As part of this leadership training, and my general Ilk, I endeavored to find a way to incorporate STEM and the Engineering method of problem solving into the STEM rich environment of scouting. Through this leadership role and training I set one of my goals to put together an event highlighting the symbiosis. I was already becoming addicted to plane building, thanks to Flite Test, and I wanted to spread the word. Flite Test and MESA RC's STEM guides inspired me and gave me confidence the two would fit. The question was how I would make it happen.

STEP 1: Plan and Proposal

Develop a brief plan and put it in front of education leaders, mine was scouting. Yours might be a local Boys and Girls Club, or School, or Club hosted by a hobby shop.

Make sure to tailor the event to the limitations of your audience (1st graders should be loosed with hot glue). And keep it short but have some base details like time, cost, space requirements, event size limitations ready.

Also Test out what your plan is. For me I tested two builds. The Sparrow, and the Tiny Glider. I also tested the two construction techniques, FT with hot glue, Packing Tape Only. Turns out the packing tape version is serviceable.

STEP 1a: Plan:

  • Prep Time – 1 1/2 hrs / 7 Children
  • Event Time – 2hrs
  • Cost - $1-$2.50 /Child
  • Space/Resources – (Gymnasium was the event host space) and 1 6’-long table/3 Children+1 for displays.
  • Limitation – I would’ve had to break it out were I unable to have enough helpers
  • Supplies – Pre Cut Plans, Skewer, Packing tape, rubber bands, pennies, markers to make the planes unique to the child, Educational Packet.

STEP 1b: Proposal

To get it started you need to take your plan and make a proposal for the event.

Mine went like this; “I know we do a lock-in event over the winter. MayI lead a STEM program for the kids for say 2-3 hours. It would tie into some existing adventures (scouting advancements). I’m planning to start with a science/chemistry demonstration, then do coding with a Morse Code Trainer build, and end by building chuck gliders from Dollar Tree Foam Board. The beepers price around $5 per scout, and $1-2 per scout for the planes.”

“I’ll do the Chemistry demonstration!” said our resident chemist with bright excited eyes. We talked ahead of time and both knew she was dying and ready for this kind of thing.

“Done – It’s your ball. Next Business…” was the reply.

For the purposed of this article I will focus on the last project, the DTFB chuck gliders. but I've included inmages of the other project for you scout leaders

STEP 2: Selection and Preparation

The next step is to determine which plane and plan to use and get the kits ready.

STEP 2a: Selection

Determine your event criteria and choose what plane and and which plan to use.

I had two criteria:

  1. Built with just packing tape. (age groups 1st -5th grade)
  2. LOW Budget - scout is thrifty.

Flite Test had used the FT Mini Sparrow in their STEM events. In prep for this, during wood badge training, I worked with my 2nd grader son and built one. It is a great compact little plane. We had a heck of a time balancing it right. So, I was leery about moving ahead with the sparrow, plus I wasn’t sure how secure the v-tail would tape down. I use the FT forums to inform me, on which plane was a better choice. The common take-away from the Sparrow group build was the narrow CG window was a detracting factor. I looked for other stem events, and consensus was the Tiny Trainer was more stable, and had a more forgiving CG window. I was worried about building such a large plane with potentially little to no budget and while searching, I found SheppO's reduced scale Tiny Trainer. This was the same great plane on only 1 sheet.

STEP 2b: Preparation

Now's the time to get it all ready and together, you must consider how much you want your participants to do. This will be affected by abilities, age, tools, help, time available to name the big ones. Below is my take.

Tape and markers would be easy to purchase cheap, I had rubber bands and skewers galore, and foam board was a short trip down the road. So, supplies - check. However two things were unknown, exactly how many children, and how I was going to cut them all out. As I determined the scope wasn’t including cut-out time. So for next few months I worried in about how I would cut out so many planes without spending all my free time doing it. I could have upwards of 20-30 children.

We asked parents to sign-up via email, but as this was a dismal failure, the week prior. I decided on a different approach. The week before the Camp-in I brought sign-up sheets for the projects and my demo model. That was a much better response.  I took home a list of 9 boys and 4 parents. Now I started to sweat... at 1 hr per plane to fully cut and ready, I was looking at 4-5 nights spent just cutting the planes out.

Then as a side note on NerdNic's Manic Micro Thread while discussing the Tiger Moth The-One-Who-Never-Crashes saved my hide and by asking if I had a Scroll Saw. Details on that here. I knew exactly what he meant. Instead of spending 40+min per plane to cut the shapes, I did 7 in the same time. So in 3 - 3 1/2 hrs I had all the pieces to 13 planes cut, scored and ready! 

 Cutting 7 at a time

Last thing I wanted ready was a quick 5 min. educational review on Flight, Plane Parts and how to get your glider flying like you want. I put together this collection of informational images from the net. This is the Airplane Basic Talk Guide I put together. It's for private use only please, as I didn't pull the credits for the images. Best used as a speaking guide. I printed out 1 per child plus a few for the adults.


STEP 3 - Execution

STEM NIGHT Main Events

  • Chemistry Demo -Ph, Alka-seltzer rockets, and DRY ICE!
  • Morse Code - Learn Morse Code and Build your own practice device
  • Fun with Foam Flyers - Build a Glider to fly

Chemistry Demo 

 The Chemistry Demo was Amazing! Red Cabbage Litmus test, Alka-seltzer rockets, 2-liter lava lamps and with dry-ice how could you go wrong? (Thank you Ms. Larissa)

Larissa Has everyone enthralled. Dry Ice Vapor Bubbles

Morse Code

Tin-Morse Coder (Think Operation with a rocker arm instead of tweezers) - a Good and Noisy first attempt. The scouts really enjoyed this. (I have a few improvements for next time.) 

Morse Code Beepers Morse Code Beeper Guts Beeper Action Shot

"Fun with Foam Flyers" 

As with all plans, Nothing survives contact with the enemy intact. While only 9 boys signed up, 13 were at the event looking to make a flyer. It made me glad I counted the Parents on the list as builders.

STEP 3a: Education

Above, I'm using the guide and the example plane to go through the information packet. I then showed the plans. We talked about engineers and the plans and what they're for. We briefly covered what the engineering problem solving approach (similar to FT STEM circle).

STEP 3b: Build - Fuselage

I started with building the fuselage and added the doubler, pull the paper from the front nose and rolled the front around top. They taped around the nose to add strength to the likely impact spot. Then I had the boys take markers and make the plane their own. Coloring the Fuselage and wing. This turned out to be a great way for every boy to know which was theirs. Next was to build the wing.

STEP 3c: Build - Wing

I took this time to talk about dihedral and why it's on the beginner planes. We didn't use a gauge and it was neat to see how different dihedral angles changed the flight. At this point the boys could see the plane coming together. Then we put the tails on. Inserted the skewers and attached the wings on. I had them start with 6-7 pennies rolled in tape, put in the nose and then stuffed the rest of the nose with paper towel or plastic bag. A light and a decent space filler.

STEP 3d: Build - Fly!

Before the weighting step, some boys took their planes and began throwing them. They did giant loops nearly hitting the rafters in the gym, which really got the rest energized to finish. Some boys put the weights in and were excited to have a plane fly a long way and straight. They all flew relatively well. No one was disappointed. They were durable too, as of this article date it’s been three weeks and many are still flying them.

 End of the Night: The Quarantine Table

Target Toss - Lined up

Having Fun Throwing The Planes

In Flight

Beyond The 3 Steps

I brought some of my other FT planes for examples of other flying planes - The Bloody Baron(for decoration ideas), a crashed FT Mini Arrow (to illustrate it's durability), the FT Sparrow my son and I built together, and the nnTigerMoth (to show a bi-plane, and size differences). I also briefly talked to interested parents about Flite Test and how they could take this further and make it an RC plane in the future for less than they think. With a base expense of no more than $130-$150 (with $120 on good quality reusable parts for one full setup to put in 5-6 models to fly.

Bloody Baron - FoamyDM Style nnTigerMoth FT Mini Arrow FT Sparrow

 This event was fun for kids of all ages.

TAKE-AWAYS: Using the Scout Stop, Start, Continue Method

 Stop doing these

  • Tape the doublers after rolling the fuselage. Do it before the roll step or glue in ahead of time.
  • Use email to sign up and head count.
  • Give yourself 1 week to prep 

Start doing these next time

  • Have a sign up a month out, and a deadline 2-weeks out.
  • Plan a parent prep night the week prior help with the 50% score cuts and kit assembly to save time, and fun.
  • Come with extra - skewers, Tape, kits, patience, etc.
  • Prepare penny rolls as part of the kit.
  • Add the 50% score lines in the plans.
  • Have 1 plan available for each boy to take home.
  • Have tape in dispensers if possible (getting tape off the roll was a difficulty)
  • Bring an indoor flyer to show how it can go RC.
  • Keep other example non-chuck-gliders in an "Off Limits Zone" a few were damaged during the event.

Continue doing these

  • Bring a demo Beeper/Plane to the Sign up
  • Remember No mistake is a problem or big deal
  • 1 packing tape roll for every 3 kits-ish. This allows for stress-free sharing.
  • Have a Catch or Hit-the-target Game ready, and Highlight it in the beginning, (goal setting and communication).
  • Marking/Coloring the planes. This made each unique to the child builder.
  • 2 Marker sets per 1/2 dozen children
  • Have children who finish fast help when done.
  • During the overnight, beepers and Gliders were on the Quarantine Table - not to be touched till morning, so everyone could sleep. 


This event was a BIG hit and wouldn't have been that great without FliteTest and the FliteTest Community.

ANYONE can do this with your community/tribe/pack/troop/families. Do this at a family reunion, church event, scouts, classroom, hobby club/shop. It'll creates Fun, Memories and brings your community closer.

I hope this helps the next person with their event.


First a big thanks to the Parents of Pack 745 who helped make this event a big success. Scouts for continuing a program that engages children with their families in the years that have such an impact. Thanks Flitetest for inspiring the fun we all had at this event and the FT community like The-One-Who-Never-Crashes for the help, encouragement and advice. Lastly FT PODCAST 145 for spending over 10 mins talking about our event.

"I'm Honored" is all I can say.


Kurt0326 on March 6, 2017
I love scouting. I am a scout and so are my boys. They're tenderfoot and firstclass now, and boy it goes quick. Both started from cubscouts and up. I was a Cub Master too. Thank you for your time in scouts, your boys will learn A LOT! I wish we had this when my kids were smaller. But paper airplanes did fine then too. Keep on going! I love it!

Great job on the article, even if others are shy about praises.
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FoamyDM on March 15, 2017
Thank you Kurt0326 it means a lot.

I would urge you to organize an event for your former pack, and/or challenge your boys to organize one in their troop. Contrary to some scouters, STEM involvement doesn't stop at Cubs. If they love the RC aircraft hobby, this a perfect way to share it. One of the goals in scouting is to get boys to try and experience a wide range of things, because you don't know you like something until you try.

A good way to sell it is to tie it to advancement, the Engineering Badge for example. Then incorporate it into one of your planned outings. spend one or two nights building, then hike to a great slope soaring spot. I'm sure they will be far more creative than I am here. but you get my idea.

It was a great experience for all involved. With any luck, I help create a room full of memories.

Maybe you get a Dad or Mom into the hobby too! :)
Lastly, thank you for involvement in making Scouting a continuing success.
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ChandlerRC on March 15, 2017
What a thorough article! Practical and encouraging. I forwarded it to a friend who latched onto the idea of RC flight STEM training for the Boys' and Girls' Clubs in our area.


-- Mike

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Kevin-in-NM on March 30, 2017
Outstanding article! I am an Assistant Scoutmaster and Merit Badge Counselor and was planning on doing something very like this for the Aviation Merit Badge (there is another FT article about the concept as well). Very well thought-out plan and execution, and the boys certainly looked like they enjoyed it! I have been trying to find ways to bring in RC aircraft as teaching tools, and you've "paved the way"!
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FoamyDM on March 30, 2017
Thank you. I'm looking to see about how to extend this to RC. I you have Ideas, I'm all ears!
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S.T.E.M. Fun with Foam Flyers in Three Easy Step