Tetrahedral Kites: Geometry, Physics and Fun!

Geek Culture

Tetrahedral kites make for a great DIY project. Originally developed by Alexander Graham Bell, these simple kites can be built out of straws, fishing line and paper. The weight to sail area coupled with the inherent strength of tetrahedrons allows them to be scaled to sizes with enough lift to carry a man 100 plus feet in the air! 

Deciding discretion truly is the better part of valor, my son and I started small.  We used some cool looking wrapping paper we had laying around, but just about any lightweight paper will do (think trace, tissue or newspaper).  If your kids are too young to do the building itself, decorating the wings will keep them entertained.  Flying artwork is considerably more engaging than hanging it on the fridge.

Our maiden flight was met with mixed results.  As can be seen from the photo, it does in fact fly!  Unfortunately, due to the weight of the dollar store kite string, we could not maintain a height of more than 10-15 feet. Stability was also an issue, as it was prone to rolling on the way up.  Some further research revealed the importance of making a proper bridle (the string that connects the kite to the kite string).  In our next outing, we’ll be adding an additional 12 cells. Happy flying!

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