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"Re-living The Wright Way"

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Invention Process

Researched Flight

Tested Theories

Flight Control

Test Pilot Skills

Propulsion System

First Flight

Flight Development

Pushing Envelope

Wilbur Wright Bio

Orville Wright Bio

Lesson Plans






1900 - Aircraft

1901 - Aircraft

1902 - Aircraft

Powered Aircraft

1903 - Wright Flyer

1904 - Aircraft

1905 - Aircraft

Flight Control

Wing Warping

1901 - Wind Tunnel


Wright Brothers' Invention Process

(1901 - 1902) - Tested Theories

The early kite and glider experiments did not meet the performance goals which the brothers calculated before the flights. In late 1901, the brothers began to doubt the data which they were using to design their aircraft. They built a wind tunnel and developed model-testing techniques including a balance to more accurately determine the lift and drag of their aircraft.

Photo of 1901 wind tunnel
They tested over two hundred different wings and airfoil models to improve the performance of their gliders. Their very successful 1902 aircraft was based on their new data.

Today, NASA engineers at Ames, Langley, and Glenn Research Centers use sophisticated models and wind tunnels to study a variety of problems associated with modern aircraft design. These tunnels and test techniques are only modern improvements on the original work done by the Wright Brothers. You can use a computer simulator of the Wright tunnel to find out how it works.

Legend of Related Programs:: W Website
L Lesson Plans/Materials
A Activity
V Webcasts/Video
S Simulation


Program Description Grade W L A V C S
Central Operations of Resources for Education (CORE) CORE is the world-wide distribution center of NASA-produced, educational, multimedia materials. The public has access to over 200 videocassettes, slides, and CD-ROMs chronicling NASA's state-of-the-art research and technology. K-16 x x        
Curveball Students learn about the principles of aerodynamics by controlling the conditions of a big league baseball pitch. 9-12 x       x x
Earth-to-Orbit Engineering Design Challenge This program presents junior high school students with some of the same aeronautical and engineering design challenges faced by NASA scientists today. Students work together to design, build, test, and redesign models that meet specific criteria to counteract common engineering difficulties. 6-9     x      
Exploring Aeronautics CD-ROM This software provides interactive tutorials on the principles of flight and aircraft design. A companion website gives an introduction to and instructions on how to incorporate these materials into math, science, technology, and geography curricula. 5-8         x  
Foil Sim II This software fosters hands-on inquiry-based learning by computing the theoretical lift of a variety of airfoil shapes. The user can control the shapes, size, and inclination of a wing, and test their decisions in a simulated wind tunnel. 9-12 x       x x
Learning Technologies Project This project helps integrate NASA research and technology into the K-14 curriculum through web-based resources, computer simulations, and videoconferences. Many ready-made lesson plans, activities, and experiments that deal with the science of aerodynamics are available. K-14 x x x     x
Mobile Aeronautics Education Laboratory (MAEL) The mobile state-of-the-art Aeronautics Education Laboratory brings new technologies to partnership cities to excite students about science and math. Visitors can experience 10 hands-on workstations that model real world aviation chK-16enges like weather forecasting, flight design, airfoil design, and flight controls. K-12   x       x
NASA Connect NASA Connect is an award winning series of instructional television programs that are proven to capture the imagination of elementary and middle school students. This program establishes connections between NASA research and math, science, aeronautics, and technology content taught in the classroom. 5-8 x   x x    
NASA Explores This website features weekly educational activities and updates on cutting edge research and development for elementary, middle, and high school students. Each week two new articles on aeronautics technology with lesson plans and adapted activities are featured. K-12 x x x      
NASA Quest Meet the people of NASA and look over their shoulder as they make NASA goals a reality. This website brings NASA personel and scientists into the classroom via the internet. K-12 x          
NASA Quest Aero Design Team This resource K-16ows teachers and students to see NASA employees performing aeronautics design and research in wind tunnels and flight simulators. Hear from NASA engineers as they design safer, more efficient, quieter, and faster airplanes. K-16 x   x      
Research Tools to Design an Airplane This website explains what it takes to design an airplane, including wind tunnels, computations, flight simulation, and research flights. K-16 x          
Spacelink This website contains a search tool to discover a wealth of NASA programs, research opportunities and educational materials. K-12 x          
The NASA Science Files The Science Files are an educational television program designed to enhance and enrich the teaching of math and science in '3-5. This program deals with numerous topics related to aviation, aerospace, science, technology, and math. 3-5 x   x x    
The Wright Way Learn about the development of the first manned, powered flight from its conception through research and experimentation, to success and beyond. This website features facts, lesson plans, simulations, activities, and contains information on how to participate in the Centennial of Flight Celebration. K-12 x x x     x
Tools of The Trade Poster This poster features research aircraft, and contains hands-on activities for building and experimenting with basic wing/tail canard configurations K-12   x x      
Virtual Skies This interactive website, designed to teach decision making and problem-solving skills, guides students through an exploration of the world of aeronautics. Learn the principles of flight, flight planning, see large wind tunnels in operation, consider career options, and more. 9-12 x   x     x
Wind Tunnel Teacher's Guide The major parts of a wind tunnel are described, and animation is used to demonstrate how they operate. This guide provides a classroom activity in which a teacher can design their own wind tunnel. 8-12 x x x     x
Wright Flyer Online Learn about a full-sized replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer. Students can follow the trailing vortex as it is tested in a NASA wind tunnel. 9-12 x         x

Related Research Programs

The Icing Research Branch The NASA icing research branch utilizes a flying laboratory to study the development and effects of icing while in flight, and a unique refrigerated wind tunnel to create realistic icing conditions for modeling and research. NASA has three icing research goals: icing avoidance, icing tolerance for safer operation of flights, and to discover the atmospheric characteristics of ice. The icing research branch has played a substantial role in developing, testing, and utilizing methods to prevent ice build up on aircraft.
Future Flight Central Future Flight Central is a fully interactive air control tower simulator. This world-class facility allows for research and practice in airport planning, technology evaluation, procedures development, and training. The simulator allows researchers and airport professionals to develop new techniques and test new ideas in a virtual airport control tower environment.
Human Automation Integration Research (HAIR) The Human Automation Integration Research Branch is studying ways to optimize interactions between automated systems and humans. The goal of the program is to capitalize on the skills and capabilities of experienced flight controllers and pilots, while minimizing human error.

Site Map and Links to Wright Brothers Information


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Editor: Tom Benson
NASA Official: Tom Benson
Last Updated: Thu, Jun 12 05:10:23 PM EDT 2014

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