One of the biggest challenges every inventor must face is how to turn their idea into a successful invention. Throughout the process of creating a new invention, an inventor must imagine new and unexpected uses for the available materials and tools. One such tool, the kite, plays an important role in many famous inventions.
Benjamin Franklin: Kites in Meteorology and Electricity
In June of 1752 Benjamin Franklin began to study the atmosphere with kites, including the famous and wildly dangerous kite experiment that proved that lightning is electrical. This experiment also contributed to Franklin’s invention of the lightning rod. Kites continued to be used in meteorological research for the next 150 years.
Alexander Graham Bell and the Wright Brothers: Kites in Aircraft Design
Emboldened by his invention of the telephone in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell joined the race to prove that human flight was possible. To do this, Bell invented and patented tetrahedral-shaped kites that were very light and very strong. Bell added small engines to his tetrahedral kites, producing some of the earliest manned airplanes. Unfortunately, his tetrahedral airplane designs were overshadowed by the Wright Brothers’ successful biplane design. The Wright Brothers also conducted many experiments with kites prior to the first manned flight in 1903. Kites and Kite-flying have also inspired other flight inventions such as the para-glider, hang glider, and sport parachutes.
Guglielmo Marconi: Kites in Radio and Wireless Communication
Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi transmitted the first radio signal across the Atlantic Ocean, from England to New Foundland, using a large kite to lift the receiver antenna 400 feet into the air. This innovative experiment led to the development of radio broadcasting and modern wireless communications systems.
- 5-6 feet of string or yarn
- straw or craft stick tape
- colored markers or crayons
- other lightweight materials from the recycling bin
Keep track of your kite-flying adventures in an Inventor's Notebook