Flying Fox Challenge: Using maths to figure out a real-world solution

Your Year 7-10 students will have fun designing and modelling a Flying Fox (zip line) for their school grounds while applying skills in measurement, geometry and mapping technology.

The activity involves your class working with one or more Ambassadors over three visits. The Ambassadors are likely to be engineers, surveyors or GIS analysts and will talk about how their everyday work relates to Flying Fox activity, how they use maths at work, and the career opportunities in their occupation.

We've developed four activities – generally teachers work with their Facilitator to choose three sessions to suit their class.

XX.Map the Spot: This session involves students in looking at a map of the school (online or paper) to identify a suitable site. They learn to read a topographic map, analyse the key requirements for siting a flying fox (slope, length, speed), and learn about scale and estimating measurements.

XX.Explore the Site: This session gets students out to the site to do measurements, including learning to use a spirit level. Back in the classroom, they use their measurements and simple trigonometry to determine the height of the posts, figure out the amount of slack that's allowable in the cable, and learn about forces in balance.

XXPlanning the Build: Students calculate the materials needed to build their flying fox and test the costs and outcomes for different materials. They test their earlier calculations for post height and cable length using string, paper clips and weights, then decide on the best model that is within budget, safe and fun. Completing a costings worksheet reveals how much it would cost to source the necessary concrete, cable, timber and fittings.

XX.Designing a Flying Fox: In this session the Ambassador introduces the students to what needs to be considered when designing a load supporting structure, including compression and tension forces, and strong structural shapes such as triangles. The students experiment with building scale models using K'nex, Lego, ice block sticks or an online modelling programme, and present their model to the rest of the class.

What do you need to host this activity? The Ambassadors will bring materials for measuring the site, but students will need access to protractors, calculators, set squares and some basic materials for making models – your Facilitator will help you work out what you need for each session.

See also:

Examples of what we have offered schools

Futureintech is an initiative of Engineering New Zealand, funded by Callaghan Innovation