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Build a tetrahedral kite

ready-to-fly.jpgAlexander Graham Bell became famous for inventing the telephone. But he had a bigger dream: manned flight.

A year before the Wright brothers made their historic flight in Kitty Hawk, N.C., Bell wrote in 1902 that it was possible to build large, lightweight flying machines. Instead of building one large wing, he proposed a bunch of small wings in the form of tetrahedrons (teh-tra-HEE-drons), strong, pyramid-shaped structures.

Was Mr. Bell right? Build this 10-cell tetrahedral kite and soar!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • Scissors
  • Ballpoint pen
  • 60 long, straight drinking straws
  • Kite string
  • Needle (big eye)
  • File folder or poster board
  • Plastic bags
  • Cellophane tape
  • Dowel, 1/8 inch diameter

WHAT YOU’LL DO:

Step 1: Cut a piece of string eight times as long as the length of a straw. Thread the needle with the string.

kite-step-two.jpgStep 2: String three straws together. Tie into a triangle using a square knot. Leave a 2-inch end.

kit-step-three.jpgStep 3: String two more straws on the long string. Tie to one of the triangle’s corners using a double half hitch. Cut the string leaving a 2-inch end. Keep remaining string for later.

kite-step-4.jpgStep 4: Make a pattern by tracing both triangles onto the file folder or poster board. Draw a 1-inch flap along the side of each straw. Cut out. Save for step 6. Tie remaining string to left or right corner in figure above.

kite-step-5.jpgStep 5: Thread a sixth straw with leftover string. Tie the string to the opposite corner, creating a three-dimensional figure. You now have the frame of one cell.

kite-step-6.jpgStep 6: Trace the pattern onto the plastic bag, and cut along the lines.

Step 7: Lay the frame on the plastic, and tape in place.

kite-step-7.jpgStep 8: Make nine more cells.

Step 9: Tie cells together with the ends of the strings. Be sure the leading edges face the same way!

kite-step-9.jpgStep 10: Slide the dowel through the straws in the leading edge and cut excess. Put tape over each end of the dowel to keep it from sliding out.

TO GET YOUR KITE READY TO FLY:

1. Tape the dowel in place at the areas marked by arrows above.

2. Cut string 1 1/2 times as long as the leading edge.

3. Thread string on a needle. Sew ends of string through plastic around the dowel.

4. Tie an overhand knot one-third down from the top.

5. Tie your flying string to the knot, and launch your kite.

47 Comments on Build a tetrahedral kite

  1. almost there

  2. That’s tight. I’m going to try that 1 day!

  3. Elise says // July 29, 2013 at 11:24 am // Reply

    I think this kite is amazing.I think I love my kite so much like totally awesome you have to try it ,it is reallycool!!!

  4. I built it B4…really interesting kite…great geometric idea … it fly really well in light wind .

  5. i hate this

    • I built a ten cell tetrahedral kite 35 years ago using wooden dowels and mylar. After I completed it, my friend, an aeronautical engineer said he wanted to help fly it. So we dragged it behind my convertible, but alas it was a no go. It took a few days before we realized that instead of scooping the air, we should have been using it as an air foil. Boy, was his face red!

  6. The wind needs to blow into the kite not against it, so make sure to tie the string to a corner with the paper covers both sides of the straw.

  7. Anonymous // June 9, 2011 at 5:42 pm // Reply

    uggggg how long should the string be!!!!! i am ten!!! i flew my kite a day or two ago!! it worked untill it broke!! i just need to know how long the two stings to be!!!

  8. i want 1

  9. looks cool dont think it will work with the triangles need 2 add 2 directions

  10. sounds cool more like sounds awesome

  11. horabal

  12. I built one and had no success in successful flight. Thought maybe the problem was bridle so I built another one tweaking the bridle location a little. Second attempt resulting in only flying into the trash can at the park due to frustration. So I don;t know if these instructions are the best to go by for building a tetrahedral kite.

  13. it really works!

  14. i’m so confused

  15. im making one for tech i hope it flies!

  16. Totally easy and fun. :) Love it.

  17. Mickey Mouse // March 4, 2010 at 7:28 pm // Reply

    Yes! I’m done with my project! This kite website really helped! Thanks whoever made this site! ha

  18. Mickey Mouse // February 28, 2010 at 7:35 pm // Reply

    Cool! I’m using this for a project and its helped me a lot! ha

  19. im making one 4 a geometery project…..hope it works

  20. how mutch dose it cost

  21. djembe drummer09 // June 7, 2009 at 5:53 pm // Reply

    We made those in science this year. Some kids thought it was hard but it is really easy.

  22. These fly great! Made mine out of newspaper, with 4 units. Flies MUCH BETTER with a REALLY LONG TAIL.

  23. i am doing this as i speak for geometry. its not hard, but its a long process. the hardest part was stringing the kite

  24. difficult

  25. its awsome (I like it )

  26. sweet

  27. I think that this will actually work. I tried these other directions and they did not make any sense. So, I hope this works!!!!!!!!

  28. this is a great kite but can i make it with tissu papper

  29. interesting im still confused where the kite string is supposed to connect to!!!????

  30. Trying this for a project hope it works!!!!!!!!!!!

  31. you can jus put the stros in each other not string them

  32. woldn’t this alow air to easily escape a mutch easier way would be to frame the inside of a small kite

  33. I think our boys will like this idea for a kite,WOW…

  34. 319 stealth eagle // August 11, 2007 at 6:22 pm // Reply

    its magnificent :)

  35. its cooler than cool

  36. 2scientist // August 6, 2007 at 9:38 am // Reply

    great idea

  37. coolstanlee // August 1, 2007 at 4:17 am // Reply

    It was fun. I couldnt wait to take the KITE for a FLIGHT

  38. Cool! :)

  39. karl franz // July 31, 2007 at 7:46 pm // Reply

    If you like kite and dont have much to do this is a very good idea. =)

  40. Derrick, Age 10, Florida // July 26, 2007 at 11:48 am // Reply

    Not that hard at all, and it really works! I made my kite last weekend and it was soooo much fun. Don’t let your little sister\brother get involved, take my word for it, because I’m sure you don’t want to get in trouble after your younger sister covers herself with fake tatooes from the pen! I know too well what that’s like! :( :)

  41. it looks really hard and sounds hard, but fun.

  42. tried it befor … WORKS GREAT!!!

  43. sounds cool

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