Paper airplane competition makes physics fun

Ramapo’s Engineering Physics Club has hosted an annual paper airplane competition for the past several years to get a broader audience interested in the science behind the craft.

“Mostly it’s fun,” said junior Suraj Neupane, an engineering physics major and the president of the club. “We’re having a fun activity, and also there’s some physics to it… different kinds of aerodynamics.”

This year’s “Fold and Fly: Paper plane competition” was hosted on Friday, Dec. 2. Originally, the club hoped to hold the event outdoors, but the cold weather drove them inside. The event required a generous amount of space to truly test the flight capacity of students’ entries, so the removable wall separating two rooms in the Alumni Lounges was rolled back to create a massive do-it-yourself airport.

The club provided paper and a small section of tables for attendees to gather and bring their ideas to life. Strategies varied widely.

Neupane did not participate since he was a member of the e-board, but had plenty of advice to offer based on his past experiences. “From my experience, before I was a member of the club’s e-board and I participated, I won the tournament. My tip would be to make a longer plane so the aerodynamics are much higher and it’s easier to fly,” he said.

Freshman Prashant Shah emphasized creating a wide wingspan to increase the amount of air the plane catches. “It seems like it’s really simple, but there’s a lot of things that go into it that depend on physics. Aerodynamics, the length of the plane, how much surface area it has, a lot of things. I looked it up and I found it really interesting, so I wanted to test it out.”

Shah, like most of the attendees, was drawn in by his love of physics. Other students came for reasons unrelated to their major. Junior Niki Bajracharya is an environmental science major with a sustainability minor and no background in any of the relevant sciences. “I’m actually here to support my friend, but I also think it’s a fun thing. You don’t need to know the complex physics of everything,” she said.

The competition consisted of two segments, one focused on distance and the other on accuracy. The prizes were $50 in Ramapo Dollars and $20 in Ramapo Dollars respectively.

For the first section, attendees formed groups of three to compete. Then, the best plane from each group advanced to a final round that involved five attempts.

The second section consisted of attendees forming a single file line and taking turns throwing their planes at the Ramapo College seal on a podium. Each person had three attempts to hit the target.

Both sections of the competition were lighthearted. Planes frequently crashed into the walls or nosedived to the floor, but all the ensuing laughter was in good faith. People seemed more interested in socializing and enjoying the free food than outdoing their competitors.

Except one. Sophomore Samman Bhetwal won both sections of the competition. He gave it his all, and for two good reasons: it was his first time he could recall winning an event, and it was his birthday. Unsurprisingly, after the results were announced he told The Ramapo News, “I feel great.”

For anyone interested in improving their own paper plane crafts, Bhetwal advises, “My strategy [was] to try to make my plane as slim as possible, and just throw it as hard as possible.”

Photo by Danielle Bongiovanni.