Learning Design of Experiments with Paper Helicopters

Posted on October 11, 2009  Comments (3)

Paper helicopter stairwell dropPhoto showing the helicopter test track by Brad

Dr. George E.P. Box wrote a great paper on Teaching Engineers Experimental Design With a Paper Helicopter that can be used to learn principles of experimental design, including – conditions for validity of experimentation, randomization, blocking, the use of factorial and fractional factorial designs and the management of experimentation.

I ran across an interesting blog post on a class learning these principles today – Brad’s Hella-Copter:

For our statistics class, we have been working hard on a Design of Experiments project that optimizes a paper helicopter with respect to hang time an accuracy of a decent down a stairwell.

We were to design a helicopter that would drop 3 stories down within the 2ft gap between flights of stairs.

[design of experiments is] very powerful when you have lots of variables (ie. paper type, helicopter blade length, blade width, body height, body width, paperclip weights, etc) and not a lot of time to vary each one individually. If we were to individually change each variable one at a time, we would have made over 256 different helicopters. Instead we built 16, tested them, and got a feel for which variables were most important. We then focused on these important variables for design improvement through further testing and optimization.

Related: 101 Ways to Design an Experiment, or Some Ideas About Teaching Design of Experiments by William G. Hunter (my father) – posts on design of experimentsGeorge Box on quality improvementDesigned ExperimentsAutonomous Helicopters Teach Themselves to FlyStatistics for Experimenters

3 Responses to “Learning Design of Experiments with Paper Helicopters”

  1. 11 Year Old Using Design of Experiments » Curious Cat Engineering Blog
    March 23rd, 2011 @ 5:29 pm

    “I hadn’t done any building like that. The whole day was fun. It was a very open learning environment. You were experimenting with things you had never done before. I would definitely do it again,” Sarah said. And she will – next year…

  2. Help Science Education in Tanzania » Curious Cat Science Blog
    April 24th, 2011 @ 6:55 pm

    The objective of the Do Science, Tanzania project is to share teaching strategies and equipment with science teachers and students in Moshi, Tanzania. The goal is to facilitate a more active science program and to inspire students to continue studying beyond the secondary level…

  3. George Box 1919 to 2013 – A Great Friend, Scientist and Statistician » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    November 6th, 2014 @ 9:29 am

    […] it is about being curious about things – Box on Quality – Soren Bisgaard – Learning Design of Experiments with Paper Helicopters – Peter […]

Leave a Reply