Lazy like a fox.

Tokyo Institute of Technology has been a trailblazing force in nearly all facets of science and technology from cancer research, to sports science, to pretty boy aesthetics. So, when their engineering department decides to hold a paper airplane competition, you can bet some radical designs will make an appearance.

This year clearly didn’t disappoint either, on 1 June the third-place winner who goes by the Twitter handle Terurun (@terurunchan) posted their award-winning design.

▼ “I got an award just by rolling up a paper and throwing it.”

The image beside Terurun’s roly-poly plane shows his certificate proving that he won third place in the contest. It reads:

”This is to express commendation for your excellent results indicated herein for the paper plane contest of engineering literacy.
Engineering Literacy: Move things with heat”

Terurun initially entered a more conventional paper airplane but found that in previous heats that theirs, as well as everyone else’s, only flew about three meters. They knew from experience of tossing papers with mistakes in the wastebasket that they could probably just hurl a ball of paper further than that.

However, they were just being modest when they said “just rolled up” in their tweet. Terurun actually took a lot of care to fold it up in a compact way to reduce drag and made it as spherical as possible so that it would roll for extra distance.

It was only a botched throw in the semi-finals that held Terurun back from finishing higher. They told J-Town Net: “If I had joined the baseball team and had more strength, I might have won or gotten second place.”

Terurun probably would have gotten runner up in that case, but first would have been a bigger challenge, because the first-place contestant too entered a rolled up ball of paper. Not only that, but they filled it with 20 paper clips (the maximum allowed by the rules) for added momentum.

With two balls placing in the top three of this contest, many other Twitter users’ minds were set alight with the philosophical question of: What is a paper airplane?

“Seems like it’s just a paper flying contest.”
“That’s actually a really good idea.”
“You’re the type who has trouble reading the room, aren’t you.”
“Sure, but it sounds like the other airplanes kind of sucked if they could only go three meters.”
“I wonder if making a disc, like a shuriken, would have gone even farther.”
“If you showed 100 people that piece of garbage, no one would say it was a plane.”
“That’s not engineering. It’s wrong.”

Terurun got a lot of flack from some comments, saying that the winners demonstrated a lack of proper effort and simply took advantage of a loophole in the rules to win with an otherwise lazy design. However, it would seem that they did demonstrate the core principals of engineering in creating an effective and low-cost design that fit the parameters required.

Capsules have been a key part of aerospace engineering for over half a century. Even today, Jeff Bezos’ headline making spacecraft is at its core just a ball hurled into sub-orbit and then falling back down.

▼ See a resemblance?

So Terurun was well within the realm of engineering to take a more ballistic approach, but we shouldn’t be surprised if next year’s contest modifies its rules for more airplane-looking paper planes.

Meanwhile, this year’s winners ought to consider joining the Tokyo Tech research team that uncovered the secret of why a two-seamer breaks downward near the plate.

Source: Twitter/@terurunchan, J-Town Net, Itai News
Top image: ©SoraNews24
Inset image: Wikipedia/NASA Flight Opportunities
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