Students study the patterns of bird flight and learn that four main forces affect the flight abilities of birds (lift, thrust, drag, gravity). They investigate the shape, feather structure and resulting differences in the pattern of flight. Then they look at several articles that feature newly designed planes and their bird inspirations. They watch the Nature documentary, "Raptor Force," which chronicles the flight patterns of birds, how researchers study these animals and what interests the military and aeronautical engineers about these natural adaptations. This activity serves as an extension to the biomimetics lesson. Although students will not be using this information in the design process for their desert resort, it provides interesting information pertaining to the current use of biomimetics in the field of aviation. Students may extend their design process by using this information to create a means of transportation to and from the resort, if they chose to.
Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.
All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standard Network (ASN), a project of JES & Co. (www.jesandco.org).
In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.
Click on the standard groupings to explore this hierarchy as it applies to this document.
- Common Core State Standards for Mathematics: Math
- 1. Understand the concept of a ratio and use ratio language to describe a ratio relationship between two quantities. For example, "The ratio of wings to beaks in the bird house at the zoo was 2:1, because for every 2 wings there was 1 beak." "For every vote candidate A received, candidate C received nearly three votes." (Grade 6)  ...show
- International Technology and Engineering Educators Association: Technology
- H. Technological innovation often results when ideas, knowledge, or skills are shared within a technology, among technologies, or across other fields. (Grades 9 - 12)  ...show
- J. The alignment of technological processes with natural processes maximizes performance and reduces negative impacts on the environment. (Grades 9 - 12)  ...show
- Kentucky: Science
- Unifying Concepts (Grades 9 - 12)  ...show
- Nebraska: Science
- 12.7 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives (Grades 9 - 12)  ...show
- Texas: Science
- Science concepts. The student recognizes multiple forms of energy and knows the impact of energy transfer and energy conservation in everyday life. The student is expected to: (Grades 9 - 10)  ...show
- (9) Science concepts. The student knows how solution chemistry is a part of everyday life. (Grades 9 - 12)  ...show
- Distinguish between lift, thrust, drag and gravity.
- Describe how wings of different shapes support different patterns of flight.
- Explain how the study of bird flight can be extended to the field of aeronautical engineering.
- Each student needs a copy of the bird flight handout.
- Each student needs access either to hard copies of the supporting articles or computer internet access.
- The video preview is available online and can either be viewed at computers or projected onto a screen for classroom viewing. The full length video can be purchased at the link listed below.
- It is visually helpful, although not essential, to have various bird feathers available with a dissecting microscope to allow students to see the structure of a feather.
Before the Activity
- Photocopy the attached handout providing each student with a copy.
- If possible, set up microscope stations for looking at various feathers.
- Either provide hardcopies or have internet access to these articles to answer the handout questions:
- The next group of articles includes current publications discussing direct application of bird study to plane design.
With the Students
- Describe the activity by presenting the introduction for the activity as discussed above.
- Explain the three segments that comprise this activity.
- Ask the leading questions provided in the introduction of the activity and allow for some brief student responses.
- As students are completing the handouts, walk around the classroom in order to ensure that students are on the right track.
- Show the "Raptor Force" segment.
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© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2006 Vanderbilt University
VU Bioengineering RET Program, School of Engineering, Vanderbilt University
Last modified: December 1, 2015