Take off: explore the design and development of aircraft carriers, including the next generation of Queen Elizabeth Class carriers. Students then apply these ideas to build their own models.

During this activity students will explore the design and development of aircraft carriers and apply these ideas to build their own models.Several BAE Systems employees working on the next generation of Queen Elizabeth Class carriers were involved in the development of this activity and you can read some of their profiles within the resource.

The activity has been designed to fit into two sessions: the first is a discussion session on the science and engineering factors affecting aircraft carriers. The second is a hands on design and making session. Each should last approximately 40 minutes, but can be run together.

This class of aircraft carrier will be the biggest and most powerful surface warships ever constructed for the Royal Navy. Visit the Aircraft Carrier Alliance for more information.

The activity

What you need

Per group, with students working in pairs

  • Materials to build a launch mechanism, flight deck and 'jet' plane. These can all be recycled materials: paper, plastic pots, plastic straws, string, cardboard, wooden planks, folders (to build ramps), different surface materials etc.
  • Elastic or elastic bands
  • G clamps
  • Tape, glue, blu-tack
  • Tape measure or metre rule
  • Cardboard
  • A desk fan
  • Computer with internet access

What to do

Using this resource, you'll be able to guide a group of students though the design and development of a launch system for an aircraft carrier:

  1. Part one - Firstly the students must think about the factors involved in achieveing a successful launch of an aircraft from the deck of an aircraft carrier
  2. Part two: Design, make and test a launch system
  3. Test the system
  4. Try building more sophisticated launch mechanisms.
  5. Add a societal context - how does their development benefit wider society?

Engineering is ...

This activity highlights many principles of mechanical engineering as we look at applyng ideas of physics and materials science for the analysis, design, manufacturing and maintenance of an engineered system.

There are many university courses you can choose from; generally you will need STEM A levels (Advanced Highers in Scotland) including mathematics and preferably physics too. Alternatives include STEM-related Advanced Diplomas (or BTEC
National Extended Diplomas) plus appropriate qualifications in mathematics and possibly physics. See for more information.

Engineering is a very wide field and there are many different apprenticeship routes you can take to becoming an engineer. For example apprenticeships in the marine industry will cover aspects of boat building, maintenance and repair; marine engineering; electrics and electronics.

There are many engineering opportunities for apprenticeships, which cover a wide range of business sectors. For more information:

Also, see BAE Systems apprenticeships.