An interview with Rod Ellingworth, a professional cycle racer. He explains how wind resistance can affect the speed of his bike. The bike moves through the air really quickly so there is less resistance. It also has smooth curves so the air flows over it smoothly. The handlebars are designed to enable the cyclist to sit in a tuck position, which allows the air to flow over the top. The clothes they wear are tight and their shoes are covered over to help the air flow smoothly over the body.

This clip is from:
Science Clips, Friction
First broadcast:
10 October 2007

Students could develop an understanding of the friction used by air resistance, and its effect on motion, by running around the playground with a large piece of paper or card held out at arm’s length in front of them. They could then discuss how this felt and consider whether it affected the speed at which they could run. Students could also experiment with holding the card above their head or at an angle. This could also be done using their jackets and holding them out to the side.

Challenge students to use this understanding of air resistance to design a paper tube aeroplane that can fly furthest. Students could work in pairs or small groups and each be provided with a paper or cardboard tube which they must make fly. They could experiment with wing size, shape and angle, and then hold a competition to see which can fly the furthest. When a winner has been found students could discuss their observations of how this was designed and how it flew. They could compare this with other less successful plane designs and consider how these could be improved.