BioMimicry + Physics – Glider Project

This project was designed to incorporate bio-mimicry into the physics classroom. Prior to the project, students spent some time sketching natural specimens (plant and animal) borrowed from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s education department with the goal of investigating different modes of flight and gliding in nature.

They were then randomly given one animal and one plant from which to design their gliders (a free, online spinner was programmed for this selection process). Students were challenged to design and build a glider inspired by BOTH models with the goal of achieving the longest timed glide. Glides consisted of an 80-foot vertical drop, timed with a stopwatch.

Materials were very basic and affordable (e.g., tissue paper, saran wrap, straws, spaghetti) and challenged students to consider weight, surface area, and glide mechanisms in their designs.

Rita Mikita has been a ninth-grade physics teacher at MC2STEM High School for five years, also serving as the school’s science department head. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a 7–12 integrated science license from Baldwin Wallace University. She loves exploring her students’ curiosities and creativity, bringing science to life in her classroom through inquiry and project-based learning. Rita partners with local organizations like NASA Glenn Research Center and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History to bring unique experiences to her students, exposing them to the many exciting scientific opportunities the region has to offer. Rita lives in Cleveland with her husband and son, and enjoys spending time in her neighborhood, cooking, and camping.