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Flight of fancy

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority scheme of work for design and technology unit 6D on controllable vehicles is about making a model with an electric motor and switches.

The design and make assignment in the unit suggests solutions such as Moon buggies, lorries and circus vehicles. A good alternative is a to make a helicopter with a moving rotor. I discovered this has a number of advantages:

* It is simpler to make than a wheeled vehicle (the motor doesn't need to power the entire weight of the model).

* It is stationary when tested (although you can challenge your class to make it take off).

* It presents different problems to the usual wheelsaxlechassis set-up, often easier to solve.

* It is likely that by Year 6 children may well have made vehicles before.

* For more able pupils, there are several ways to extend the task by adding extra features.

I followed this basic plan for making model helicopters: * We avoided making a fuselage or body for the helicopter. Instead, we built the models up from the ground using small blocks of wood and thick card.

* We started with a simple circuit with motor and paperclip switch.

* Two problem areas were attaching the motor vertically and fitting the rotor blades. We overcame these by using rubber bands to hold the motor on the side of a stout vertical block of wood, and by using a small wheel or wood block (drilled), glue-gunned to the motor, to fix the blades onto.

* Rotor blades need to be light. We used card, straws or polystyrene.

The children added a tail and skis or wheels. Additional features included a tail rotor, tail fin, acetate bubble canopy, lights and cockpit details.

Andy Seed, primary supply teacher and tutor in primary Damp;T on Leeds

University PGCE course

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