• Famous kite flyers 28 November 2017 | View comments

  • Introduction

    Did you know that one of the most famous kite flyers of all time was a 10 year-old boy? His name was Homan Walsh, and with out him the Niagara Falls Bridge would not have been built in 1847. Before building of the bridge could begin, someone needed to get a line from one side of the gorge to the other. Homan successfully flew a kite from one side of the gorge to the other, and his kite line was the first to span the gorge. After securing Homan's initial kite string, heavier and heavier line was fed across until a steel cable could be connected across the gorge so that bridge construction could begin. Homan Walsh was rewarded with a ten-dollar cash prize, which was a lot of money in 1847!

    Another famous kite flying duo were the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright. Before building the first successful airplanes, they experimented with various designs by using kites. By making many different kite models of their airplanes, they eventually came up with a design that worked, and the rest is history.

    There are many different kite designs. Some kite designs are very old, like traditional Chinese and Japanese kites. Some designs are very new, like the dynamic stunt kites used in sport kite flying competitions. These kites are made with modern materials and designs which make them ultra maneuverable. Kites come in all shapes and sizes, as you can see in Figure 1.

    different types of kites flying
    Figure 1. This image shows several different kinds of kites.
    How does a kite fly, allowing Homan and the Wright brothers to accomplish their feats? As someone runs with a kite, the wind going head-on into the kite creates a force that pushes up on the kite. This force is called lift. This lift force goes perpendicular to the wind and it pushes the kite up into the air. At the same time, another force pulls the kite back. This force is called drag and is caused by the wind catching on the kite itself, pushing the kite back in the direction that the wind is going (see Figure 2). Altogether, these forces cause the kite to go back and up when you fly it.

    lift and drag on a kite
    Figure 2. This diagram shows lift and drag on a kite.
    In this aerodynamics science project you will make your own kite for testing how different variables affect flight. The type of kite you will make is called a sled kite, and is very simple to build. After you build the kite you will use it for a series of experiments, testing different variables such as speed, line length, tail length, and any other variable you want to test. Will you be able to figure out the best way to fly a kite?

    Terms and Concepts

    Force of lift
    Force of drag
    Sled kite

    How do you make a kite?
    What forces allow a kite to fly?
    What variables affect the flight of a kite?
    Why do kites have tails? What do the tails do?

    WEBSITE LINK :      Science Buddies FLY KITES 

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