Designing a Better Paper Helicopter
USING RESPONSE SURFACE METHODOLOGY
Webinar: Designing a Better Paper Helicopter: Using Response Surface
Author Erik Barry Erhardt discusses the article in this webinar (60 minutes running time).
by Erik Barry Erhardt
Suppose a group of your friends are having a contest to design a paper helicopter that
remains aloft the longest when dropped from a certain height. To be fair, everyone starts
with the helicopter pattern given in Figure 1, which is an easy pattern to modify and
replicate. Armed with knowledge about response surface methodology and a desire to
strive for excellence, you could have an advantage. Let us go through the steps together,
and I will show you how my classmate, Hantao Mai, and I designed “a better paper
helicopter” to become two-time paper helicopter champions at Worcester Polytechnic
Institute. After you see what we did, you can try to do even better.
[ + ] Figure 1. Initial helicopter pattern. Cut along the solid lines and fold along the
dotted lines. The foot fold, D, paper weight, G, and fold direction, H, were not included
as part of the initial pattern, but were added after brainstorming about potential factors
that might influence flight time.
Response Surface Methodology
Response surface methodology (RSM) is a collection of statistical and mathematical
techniques to explore efficiently the performance of a system to find ways to improve it.
A good reference on RSM is Response Surface Methodology by Raymond Myers and
Douglas Montgomery. A response surface can be envisioned as a curved surface
representing how the system’s output performance (a dependent variable) is affected by
specified input factors (independent variables). Examples of response surfaces in threedimensional space are shown in Figure 2.
George Box is the statistician credited with first proposing the ideas...