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Hoop Gliders

Updated: Dec 22, 2020

An exploration into the principles of flight

Grade Level:



Physical Science:

Forces & Interactions

Lift, Drag, and Motion

Engineering Design

Tools & Materials

  • 3x5” Index Cards

  • Scissors

  • Tape

  • Paper Straws

  • Ruler

  • Post-it Notes (optional)

To Do & Notice

1. Question: Does the length of straw affect how far a hoop glider will fly?

2. Make a Claim:

  • What length of straw will make your hoop glider flight the furthest? Will a longer straw go further or will a shorter straw go further?

3. Testing Ideas:

  • Make two different hoop gliders (one short and one long) to test your claim.

  • Cut the index card into 3 separate strips the long way. Each strip should be 1 inch wide and 5 inches long.

  • Take 2 of the strips and tape them together with a 1/2 inch overlap to make one long strip.

  • Make a hoop out of the long strip by taping the ends together with a 1/2 inch overlap. (Hint: make sure the tape in the middle that holds the two strips together is on the inside of the hoop. This will help the hoop stay round).

  • Make a smaller hoop out of the short strip of index card by creating a ½ inch overlap and tapping the ends together.

  • Take one straw and tape the hoops onto each end of the straw. The straw should be on the inside of each hoop. One side of the straw will have the small hoop taped to it and the other end of the straw will have the larger hoop attached.

  • That’s it! Now repeat these same steps again, but this time cut the straw down to be smaller than the original size. (Note: the bigger the size difference, the more drastic of a result there will be.)

4. Test your claim!

  • In a space with ample room to throw, hold one hoop glider in the middle of the straw with the hoops on top and the small hoop facing forward. Throw your hoop glider how you would throw a paper airplane. Use a post-it note or something to mark the place in which the hoop glider landed.

  • Next, throw the other hoop glider in the same manner. Mark the place where this hoop glider landed.

  • Repeat this process several times for each hoop glider to determine if there is a pattern.

5. Analyze & Interpret Data:

  • Which hoop glider traveled the farthest? The longer straw or the shorter straw?

  • Was your claim correct or incorrect?

  • Why do you think you had the results you had? How could you change this experiment while using the same materials?

  • Try adding more hoops, changing the sizes of the hoops, or further changing the length of the straws.

6. Communicate Findings:

  • At home try having a flight contest with your family to see who can make their hoop glider fly the furthest. Share your results with SWEP by sending us photos or videos of your experiment. Post your photos on social media and tag us @sweptahoe on Instagram and/or to @swep4 on Facebook. Be sure to hashtag and follow #SWEPsnippets. If you cannot post directly yourself, send your photos or video to SWEP (

What’s Going On

Four Forces of Flight:

  • Weight: a force that is always directed towards the center of the earth.

  • Lift: the upward force created when a wing (or hoop) is moving through the air. The wing (or hoop)’s curved surface causes the air to go faster over the top creating a region of low pressure underneath, and thus lift. When an airplane (or hoop glider) flies, the wing (or hoop) is designed to provide enough lift to overcome the airplane’s weight.

  • Drag: The resistance force of the air pulling against the motion of the aircraft (or hoop glider). Drag is the force opposed to the flight direction. The aerodynamic shape of airplanes (or hoop gliders) help reduce drag.

  • Thrust: Thrust is the propulsion force that moves the aircraft (or hoop glider) through the air. Aircrafts use jet engines to create thrust, In this experiment your arm created the thrust.


  • Watch this video on how to create the hoop gliders and the science behind how they work

  • More information the science of flight can be found here: Fun Flight Facts for Kids

Going Further

More experiments to explore lift:

  • Make a whirlybird to explore the flight physics of helicopters.

  • Test the drag on different styles of paper airplanes.

  • Make your own kite and understand what makes them fly.

Get crafty! Choose from these 18 paper creations that fly and make them your own.

Thanks to our partners at Excellence in Education for supporting STEAM based experiments.

Please review SWEP's Terms of Use prior to using this resource.

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