# Building Kites

## Building Kites

Building your own kite is fun, easy, and a great way to explore geometry and measurements!

### Overview

Building your own kite is one of Math Engaged's top recommended activities! It's creative, fun, and rich with mathematical concepts including measurements, symmetry, perimeter, parallel & perpendicular lines, ratios, and fractions.

### Materials

• 1 x Wooden dowel: 18"
• 1 x Wooden dowel: 12"
• String (~12-15 feet)
• Disposable party table cloth (or equivalent material)
• Small handsaw or scroll saw (helpful, not required: Parental Use Only!)
• Packing or Scotch tape (optional)
• Scissors
• Measuring tape, ruler
• Large ribbon or streamers
• Paint/glitter glue (optional)
• Toilet paper tube, small thick dowel, or other tool for wounding string to make a reel

### Project Details

STEPS:

o. PARENTAL SET-UP: If possible, use a hand saw or a scroll saw to make a cut at each end of the two wooden dowels approximately 3mm deep. The cuts must be parallel to each other at each end of a dowel. The purpose of this step is to help hold the string kite frame in place (see Step 5). This step is not required, but helpful.

1. We'll begin by taking our pencil and marking on the 18" wooden dowel and the 12" wooden dowel where they will cross. Given the shape of a standard diamond kite, where should the dowels cross?

1a. A kite has horizontal mirror symmetry, meaning that it is exactly the same on the right and the left. That means that you want your long wooden dowel (which runs vertically along the kite) to cross the short wooden dowel (which runs horizontally) exactly in the middle of the short dowel. Have your student measure the length of the shorter wooden dowel, divide that length by 2, and mark the halfway mark on the dowel.

1b. Does a kite have vertical mirror symmetry? It does not! A kite has a shorter top and a longer bottom. You and your student can choose how much longer you want your bottom to be than the top; we recommend a ratio of 2:1 of bottom:top. Have your student measure the entire length of the wooden dowel and discuss: "If we want the bottom part of the kite to be twice as long as the top part of the kite, where do we want the dowels to cross?" You can also phrase the question in terms of fractions: "If we want to cross the dowels 1/3 of the way down on the long dowel, exactly how far down do we cross the dowels?" For an 18" long dowel, you should find that the dowels will cross 6" down.

2. Use a piece of tape (at least 4" long) to tape the dowels together and make a loose cross.

3. Cut a piece of string approximately 12-16" long and tightly wrap the dowels at their cross, securing them. Weave under and over the dowels like a figure 8. Tie a tight knot and cut the excess string.

4. Next we need to create the kite frame - so how much string do we need? Use the measuring tape to measure the perimeter of the kite. Once you find the perimeter, add about 1.5-2 feet to that length, and cut that total length of string. The extra length of string is to allow you to tie the string together as well as allow room for error.

5. Use the string cut in Step 4 to create a tight perimeter around the kite frame.

Note: If you made cuts into the dowels in Step 0, tuck the string into each cut when you go around the diamond's corners. These cuts will keep the kite's frame securely in place. If you were not able to make cuts into the dowels, simply use masking tape to secure the string to each point of the diamond.

Once you've gone around all four points, tie the string together tightly. Ensure that the kite frame is taught; after you tie the string, you should be able to pick up the kite by the string frame without it falling off. You should be able to pluck the string like a guitar. Cut off the extra string tails.

6. Spread out the disposable party table cloth and lay the kite frame down on top. You will need to cut a diamond out of the table cloth that is approximately 1-1.5" larger than your kite frame in all directions. Use a ruler to measure about 1" away from each point of the diamond kite and mark with a marker. Once you have all four new points, use the ruler or other straight edge to connect the dots for your larger diamond on the table cloth.

7. Cut out the diamond you drew in Step 6. Discard the rest of the table cloth material.

8. Center your kite frame over the diamond table cloth cut out and fold each of the four edges over the string perimeter. Tape down each of the edges. We recommend packing tape for both strength and aesthetic purposes, but you can also use masking tape or any other strong tape available.

Be sure to tape along the edges completely, leaving no portion of the folded table cloth flapping out. This will affect the kite's performance when flying.

9. It's time to attach the string so that we can fly our kite! Start by cutting approximately 1.5 feet of string. Tie one end to the left side of the short horizontal wooden dowel, and tie the other end to the right side of the short horizontal dowel. You should have extra string that loops over the center of the kite like a rainbow.

10. Cut approximately 5 feet of string. Leaving about a 1 foot tail, tie the long string to the center of the short string you tied in step 9.

11. Tie the end of the 1 foot tail to the top portion of the vertical long dowel. You should now have a pyramid of string connecting each of the short dowel segments together (left, right, and top), with a long string coming from the top of the string pyramid.

12. Add tails to the bottom of the kite, taping large ribbon, streamers, or other long and lightweight materials.

13. Decorate your kite! Glitter and glitter glue make for a fabulous design. Be sure to allow your kite plenty of time to dry if you use wet materials like glue and paint!

14. Go out and fly your kite!

### Discussion

Our brains better retain information when we engage both our hands and minds in the activity. Now that we've explained how to engage the hand, what are some discussion questions to engage the mind during the activity?

1. Why do diamond kites have a longer bottom portion? Why not just make diamond kites be vertically symmetrical just like they are horizontally symmetrical?

2. Why do we measure the dowels to find their exact center? Why not just "wing it" and take our best guess visually?

3. When we measure the kite's perimeter, do we need to measure the length of all four sides? Or is there a shortcut, given that we know that the kite has symmetry?

4. In this activity, we measured the dowels in inches, but how else can we measure them? What are two other units of measurements that we can use? Which unit of measurement do you think is best and why?

5. Why do we add tails to kites? Is it just for decoration?

6. How did your kite fly? What kind of patterns did you notice? Does it keep tilting one way? Does it nose-dive a lot? Why do you think it does this? What can you change about your kite design to make it even better?

7. If you designed a different kite, what would it look like? Do you think it would fly better? Why?

### Supporting Resources

Kite flying also invokes discussion of the physics behind this simple phenomenon; you can read more about the physics of flying a kite at these sources:

A simpler, quick overview:
http://www.real-world-physics-problems.com/physics-of-kite-flying.html

A more thorough explanation with extra explanations on variables and Newton's Laws of Motion:
https://www.grc.nasa.gov/www/k-12/airplane/kitefly.html

## Did you find this activity helpful?

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