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The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)

is the world's largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession.

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Electric Cargo Airplane

Electric Cargo Airplane

Target grades: 9th-12th
Curriculum Duration:6 weeks

That question was probably first asked by cave dwellers watching a bird swoop through the air. Perhaps even then, people understood the advantages of human flight. The desire to defy gravity and experience the freedom of flight inspired early attempts to unravel the mysterious technique the birds had mastered so proficiently.

Student teams are challenged to build an airplane with maximum dimensions of 3' combined length, width, and height, around a specified DC motor, that can carry the maximum amount of cargo as it flies around a power pole that supplies electricity and mechanical support via a tether.

The challenge reinforces many key concepts in elementary physics such as kinematics and dynamics while demonstrating how engineers combine science, math, research, and experimentation to build a successful cargo plane. The capstone event, a fly-off between student teams to find whose plane can carry the most cargo, can be held in the classroom or a gym, or at an event sponsored by your local AIAA professional section.


  • Attend the workshop
  • Teach the curriculum in your classroom
  • Be a part of a local competition

Engineering Design Process

State the Problem   •   Generate Ideas   •   Select a Solution

Build the Item   •   Evaluate and Test   •   Refine   •   Present Results