Phoenix AIAA STEM Activities

A Table Top Wind Tunnel You Can Build

Part 1 - Tunnel Construction  (
click here)
Part 2 - Test Section  (
click here)
Part 3 - Lesson Plans  (
click here)

The Phoenix Section of the AIAA has developed a table-top wind tunnel as an example of what K-12 educators can readily create and use in their classroom. We were looking for some sort of "hands-on" demo or activity that we could use at public events and would be useful as a classroom tool. It had to be easy and inexpensive to build. We found this wind tunnel idea on the national AIAA website and started building it.

Basic principles of aerodynamics can be studied in the classroom with this simple, inexpensive wind tunnel.  All you need to build it is some cardboard boxes, glue, tape, a piece of clear plastic, a few boxes of straws, and a window fan.  The total cost is around $30 and can be built by a teacher and/or students in a few hours.


The basic idea is to have a fan pull the air into the tunnel thru a test section (behind the viewing window) where an airfoil or similar shape is placed. The tunnel necks down to increase the amount of air flow passing thru the test section. A test subject (airfoil, paper airplane, etc.) is mounted on a stand or balance behind the window to observe the effects of different angles of attack or airfoil shape (for example). A grid is placed upstream of the air flow to reduce turbulence in the tunnel.


Project Lead:  Mike Mackowski, this site updated November 2012. Links fixed 3/18/14.
Contact Mike: 
Wind Tunnel Instructions.pdf <-- Click here for a pdf of this entire website.