FREEBIE STEM Activity: Ingenuity! Spinning STEM Paper HeliCopter Lab

Rated 5 out of 5, based on 2 reviews
2 Ratings
Grade Levels
Not Grade Specific
Resource Type
Formats Included
  • PDF
17 pages
Also included in
  1. NASA's Mars duo of the rover Perseverance and the helicopter Ingenuity arrived at the red planet and touched down inside Jezero Crater on February 18th, 2021. With this bundle of low-cost, high-impact activities, Ss can practice designing, building, and landing their own Mars mission. Bring the exci
    Price $6.00Original Price $10.00Save $4.00


Inexpensive and ingenious! Let's Build Something Together Engineering Resources (LBSTER) invites students to create a Spinning STEM Copter and improve the design, like NASA engineers did when making the Mars 2020 helicopter.

In the 1480s, the genius of Leonardo da Vinci inspired the design of an "aerial screw". 535 years later, the Ingenuity helicopter took flight on the planet Mars! Now, here’s a really robust rotor blade research project FREE for classroom use. Using scissors, simple folds, and paper clips, Ss explore:

  • How changing a paper helicopter’s shape or weight affects its flight,
  • How air resistance on an object in free fall changes the way an object descends.
  • How does the shape of paper effect how it flies through the air.
  • What makes a paper helicopter fall to the ground the fastest? Slowest? How can Ss explain the difference?
  • How fast does it twirl before it hits the floor? Can Ss think of ways to change it so it twirls faster? In the opposite direction?

The STEMphasis:

  • Science: Can Ss control variables of position, descent rate, and center of mass?
  • Technology: Can Ss find what works best for a helicopter, a glider, or a plane?
  • Engineering: Can Ss improve the Copter to change the velocity (speed and/or direction) of the twirling?
  • Math: Can Ss cut paper to create positive/negative faces with symmetry? Can Ss create a graph showing the calculated rate of descent?

Ts can scale the sophistication and schedule of the investigation up or down. I've done this with kindergarteners (and dropped any data collection; just looked at rotor results), and I've challenged my AP Physics 1 Ss (and scrutinized the slope of their graphs with them).

This product also includes an activity from NASA for Ss to build a model of Ingenuity helicopter using marshmallows, toothpicks, and cardstock. It won't fly, but it will look tasty! [as always BE ALERT TO STUDENT’S FOOD ALLERGY WARNINGS! Products may contain nut and other allergens]. The purpose of this inquiry-based explorations is to stimulate students’ curiosity and to engage them in activities that involve using the scientific method and measurements, and investigate the meaning of a model and how models are used in scientific research.

Also included are some reading passages about operations of Ingenuity, and how the Mars Sample Retrieval Lander in 2033 will include two sample recovery helicopters, based on the design of the Ingenuity helicopter, which has performed 29 flights at Mars and survived over a year beyond its original planned lifetime. The helicopters will provide a secondary capability to retrieve samples cached on the surface of Mars.

These activities have the following learning objectives and outcome.

Students Will Be Able To (SWBAT/I Can):

  • SWBAT investigate how a change in the spinning STEM helicopter of affects the amount of lift they generate


  • SWBAT design and construct simple models that use different properties for flight. (For example, one clip vs. two clips.)
  • SWBAT conduct an investigation in paper helicopter flight using the models they construct.
  • SWBAT differentiate between the flight of a model using one independent variable (number of or angle of blades) and the flight of a model using a different variable.
  • SWBAT develop an understanding and the ability to do scientific inquiry.
  • SWBAT work collaboratively with a team and share their findings.

These activities are classroom tested to help students with the following Florida Next Generation Sunshine State Standards in Science:

  • SC.8.N.1.2 Design and conduct a study using repeated trials and replication.
  • SC.7.N.1.2 Differentiate replication (by others) from repetition (multiple trials).
  • SC.912.N.1.2 Describe and explain what characterizes science and its methods.
  • SC.912.N.1.5 Describe and provide examples of how similar investigations conducted in many parts of the world result in the same outcome.
  • SC.912.N.3.4 Recognize that theories do not become laws, nor do laws become theories; theories are well supported explanations and laws are well supported descriptions.

Related Resources:


Help others #StandOnTheShouldersOfGiants -- leave a review for this resource! And it helps you #SeeFurther too -- you earn 1 credit for every $1 spent on TpT resources. Each credit has a value of 5 cents, so 20 credits earned equals $1 to apply to future TpT purchases.

#StayGiant and stay up on my new resources and STEM news. Look for the green star near the top of any page within my store and click "FOLLOW". Or follow @TheScienceGiant Twitter. Stand on the Shoulders of Giants, and together we'll see further, inspire students, and enlighten inquisitive minds!

Total Pages
17 pages
Answer Key
Rubric only
Teaching Duration
1 hour
Report this resource to TPT
Reported resources will be reviewed by our team. Report this resource to let us know if this resource violates TPT’s content guidelines.


to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.
Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.
Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.
Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.
Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.


Questions & Answers


TPT empowers educators to teach at their best.

More About Us

Keep in Touch!

Sign Up