Thomas Buchwald's Bionics and Other People Creating Gliders that Mimic Lifeforms

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Thomas Buchwald is a "Technik" teacher of students in grades 6 to 10 in Germany He is a great friend, though I have yet to meet him in person. Thomas and his students make wonderfully creative engineering projects. Lately he has turned his attention to creating bionic walkalong gliders: pterodactyls (pterosaurs), manta rays and other sea creatures. I partularly like the sea creatures. What better way to show that we live in an ocean of air? He makes them from very thin-sliced foam .4 to .5mm thick. The third picture shows one of Thomas' students experimenting with bird-like wingtips that fly well. The forth picture shows students designs of tree-seed monocoptors. Click on for larger view.


To make walkalong gliders like this you must have EPS foam. Thomas was the one who discovered the best source I know of: fresh seafood packaging. It must be cut very thin. If you can make thin foam, the patterns for 4 bionics are the last two pages of this Word file. T

Click on the picture to open the Word file, including patterns. It is written in German. "Bergfalte" means "mountain fold"; "talfalte" means "valley fold"; "oben" means "top"; "hochbiegen" means "bend up" and "leicht hochbiegen" means "slightly bend up."

Dies ist in Deutsch geschrieben.

Several of Thomas' creation, the full Manta and Pterasaur, use an interesting wing that bends up, then down, then (at the tip) up again. I'd never seen a glider lide that. I thought it looked cool, but I wasn't sure it would actually fly. It did fly, with great stability and very responsive to turning.

I asked Thomas about it and he said, " Dear Slater, I am very happy that you like the pteranodon. The mountain folds on the wings produce an airfoil similar to the jedelsky airfoils (  Jedelsky was an austrian model aerodynamics pioneer who tried to get close to bird`s wings ) which work well at low reynolds numbers. ( They are bad at higher speeds but that is not important for walkalong gliding ). At the same time the mountain folds produce a kind of downwash, which adds flight stability. If they are behind the centre of gravity, they work as elevons, as well.

SO MUCH MORE! Flying superheroes! ***Student designed Biplane!***Flying angels!***Robots, rockets, RC flying machines...check out Thomas' web page and archive.


Mr. Chen Wenhwa

I have been admiring the work of a gentleman in Taiwan for a long time on YouTube .Mr. Chen Wenhwa is a primary school teacher who also volunteers at a science museum and works with the Yuanzhe Foundation to promote science education. Chen makes the elegant flying creatures: birds with long, graceful wings, dragonfliss, bats, butterflies, etc. Now we are becoming freinds--struggling to communicate with Google Translate. I was very happy that he sent me some foam gliders. They are beautiful and fly very well, so efficiant that I can fly with only hands.



Here is a nice foam butterfly glider design. I think it might benefit from bending the back up a little (reflex, elevons) although there might be other tricks for gaining stability.. Here is a good flying dragonfly design.

Here is another gentleman from Taiwan who makes beautiful butterfly gliders. He has some cool videos of ultra lightweight model planes, too.


Dr. Diana Wehrell-Grabowski science educator, consultant, surfer and world traveler found gliding seeds in Indonesia that look and glide like walkalongs. And she sent a BBC video link.

Phil Rossoni in Boston has also done interesting things with real butterflies.


Michael Thompson was the first to use thin EPS foam for walkalong gliders, inventor of the Jagwing, modular jagwing, freewheeling props on walkalong gliders, etc. Here is a strange creature walkalong glider he's come up with (and check out the rest of his YouTube Channel too).

Thomas Buchwald discovered a new way of looking at tumblewings which led directly to the Big Mouth Glider and has improved several sciencetoymaker projects. Here is a collection of some of his school projects.