Editor’s Note: We’re partnering with 3DAeroventures, Eric’s brand new YouTube channel, to help bring you a four-part video series on the hacking of a foam glider! The aim? Achieving R/C flight with the glider while educating us – and his seven-year-old – on aerodynamic principles. Be sure to subscribe to his channel via part one (embedded later in this article) to keep track of Eric and his son’s progress, leading all the way up to 3DEXPERIENCE World 2020!
“The coolest toys don’t have to be bought; they can be built. In fact, sometimes the only way they’ll ever exist is if you make them yourself.”
This is one of my all-time favorite quotes from the legendary maker, Adam Savage. While I didn’t know it at the time, this quote perfectly epitomizes my childhood, nerding out on building R/C model aircraft with my dad. Building a functional, model airplane from a pile of balsa wood was the most rewarding experience to us, and we built and flew dozens of planes over a 10+ year span.
Those experiences with my dad are a huge reason why I love solving problems as a design engineer today. But, as I’m sure my dad will tell you, it’s tough to get a kid excited about spending weeks or even months to build an R/C aircraft from a box of wood. Now, as a father myself, I’ve been wanting to introduce my kids to R/C adventures in a simpler, more accessible way.
Luckily, R/C modeling technologies have changed a TON in the last few decades, particularly with the weight and longevity of lithium ion batteries, as well as the weight and power of electric motors. Plus, with 3D printing technologies becoming more accessible, the possibilities for a budding maker are endless.
You’ve probably seen these giant foam gliders on the shelves at Walmart or Hobby-Lobby. They are cheap (I picked one up for $10) and, honestly, they are super fun to just toss back and forth with your kid or buddy at the park.
Tangent alert: my dream sport would be exactly like ultimate frisbee but using one of these gliders instead of a frisbee. We could call it Ultimate Gliders. Is that too dorky? At the very least, we should organize an inaugural match at 3DEXPERIENCE World 2020. It would be the ultimate battle of the nerds.
In my opinion, it’s way more fun to hack these gliders and make them your own.
In this video, my seven-year-old son and I are electrifying our foam glider to give it full elevator and rudder control, plus designing a 3D-printed, power-pod in SOLIDWORKS to give our glider extended flight times. We run through some basic aerodynamics principles such as maintaining power-to-weight ratio and balance on our hacked glider. Finally, in true 3DAeroventures style, we head outside with a sense of adventure and exploration for our initial test flight.