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DESIGNED BY  Roger Storm, NASA Glenn Research Center


  • Clean foam meat tray, at least 9 inches by 11 inches and preferably white
  • 30 to 35 toothpicks
  • Low temperature glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Hobby  knife, razor utility knife, or single-edge razor blade (adult help here)
  • Cardboard or board to cut on
  • Fine tip permanent black marker
  • Ruler
  • Emery board
  • Manila folder
  • Plastic toy army soldiers (optional)


  • Download and print a copy of the pdf file "1902 template".
  • Use scissors to cut out all three templates on the heavy lines. Do NOT cut the lower wing in half at this time.
  • Do all hobby knife or razor blade cutting on the board or cardboard to protect your working surface.
  • The finished model is for display only; it is not meant to fly.


1. Carefully trace the wing and elevator shapes on the inside of a meat tray as shown. Be sure the front edges of the wings go about 2/3 of the way up the curved sides of the tray. Check the bottom of the tray and avoid any logo found there. You may need two trays. Cut out the wings and elevator with the hobby knife or scissors.

Layout of parts traced onto meat tray.

2. Use the emery board to smooth the cut edges and sand off the pen lines. Make sure that the two halves of the upper wing are flat where they will be joined, as shown at the right.

Edge where wing halves will be joined filed straight with emery board

3. Using a black marker and templates, mark the locations of the rib lines on both sides of each wing and elevator sections. Make two sets of marks, one on each edge. Connect the marks to make the rib lines. Use a permanent ultra fine black marker and a straight edge made from a manila folder (so the end can be bent to conform to the rounded shape of the foam).

Rib lines being drawn on wing with strip of manila folder as a template.
Rib lines are laid out on the plane from the template.

4. Place glue on the flat edge of the upper wing halves and join them as shown.

Top view of top wing halves before being marked and joined and after.

5. Now cut out the center of the lower wing only as shown by the dotted lines on that template. Cut a toothpick in half and sharpen the cut ends. Dip the ends in glue and stick them in the cut edges to join the lower wing halves, leaving a 1.5 cm. gap as shown.
(If the foam is thin, glue the toothpicks to the underside of the wing instead.)

Bottom wing halves ready to be joined with small toothpick pieces and glue.

6. Use the wing template and a sharp toothpick to mark the holes for the spars on the top surface of the lower wing (the front edge should curve down as shown) and the bottom surface of the upper wing.

Poking holes through template onto bottom wing to mark spar locations.

7. Dip toothpicks in glue and insert them in the spar holes now marked in the lower wing. Try not to push them all the way through the wing. Be sure they are standing up as straight as possible.

Spars inserted and glued into bottom wing while holes poked through template into bottom of upper wing to mark spar location.

8. Now, with both the upper and lower wings upside down (the edges should be curving up at this point), insert the back row of spars into the underside of the top wing. Use the marked holes as a general guide, but keep the spars straight and evenly spaced. Put a little glue on each to keep them in place as shown in the picture.
Next join the front spars to the top wing, remembering to keep them straight and fasten them with dabs of glue.  This takes some effort to get everything in the right place and is easier to do with two people.

Lower wing being joined to upper wing.

9. To make each of the two skids join two toothpicks side-to-side. When the glue is dry cut them to a length of 7.5 cm and then glue the cut off end back, but at a 30 degree angle.

Toothpicks being joined end to end to  make elevator support

10. Glue the skids on either side of the opening in the lower wing so that the tips point upward. They should project out from the downward curving front surface.

Elevator supports glued into open area of lower wing.

11. Cut a piece to brace across the skids and glue it at the 30 degree joint. Make two braces to go from the upper wing to the elevator by joining two toothpicks side-to-side and then mark to the correct length by holding them between the upper wing and the skid as shown. Allow enough to stick into the upper wing, cut off the excess, and then sharpen the cut end. (If the foam is thin, do not sharpend the cut end.)

Two joined toothpicks being measured for distance between elevator support and upper wing.

12. Push the ends of the uprights through the center of the elevator at an angle back toward the wing . Put glue on the top end of the upper braces and push them into the edge of the upper wing. (If the foam is thin, glue the ends of the uprights underneath the front edge of the upper wing.)

Elevator braces pushed through elevator.

13. Now glue the lower end of the brace that sticks through the elevator to the up-turned part of the skid in a way that makes the elevator level. Also add a cross-brace at the joint where the skids turn up at the 30 degree angle from one skid to the other.

View of elevator braces glued through elevator to elevator support.

14. Cut two small pieces of toothpick long enough to go from the 30 degree joint to the rear of the underside of the elevator and glue them in place. You may need to use tweezers or long nose pliers. See picture at the right.

A short brace is added from the 30 degree joint to the underside of the rear  of the elevator.

13. To attach the rudder, cut 4 four toothpicks so they are 5.5 cm long. and stick the sharp ends into the long edge of the rudder, two on top and two on the bottom so they form a "V" shape as shown. Turn the glider over and glue the top two braces to the underside of the upper wing.

Rudder assembly  being attached to underside of wings.

14. Turn the glider rightside up and glue the bottom two rudder braces to either side of the opening in the lower wing so the rudder is vertical. This finishes the glider.

Finished rudder assembly from rear.

Finished model in air with man on the ground.

Finished model in the air.

15. (Optional) You can make figures of Wilbur and Orville Wright from small, plastic army men. (These figures are about 2 inched tall). Enlarge the image at the right to see labels. Use a hobby knife to carefully trim off guns and army equipment. The helmet can be trimmed into a hat. To obtain the desired pose, arms and legs can be removed and some from other soldiers glued in their place. The picture to the right shows how to make a pilot to lay on the wing.

How to rearrange arms and legs on toy soldiers to make a pilot.

16. The original soldiers on the left were transformed into the figures of Wilbur and Orville Wright.

Before and after picture of altered army men.



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Editor: Tom Benson
NASA Official: Tom Benson
Last Updated: Mon, May 10 02:09:26 PM EDT 2021

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