Red Bull Paper Wings Contest a Lively Show of Student Creativity

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Photos by Asia Morris.

The Red Bull Paper Wings contest inspired flights of fancy folded, floating and sometimes faulty falling paper airplanes, made by the hands of students hoping for a chance to fly to Salzburg, Austria for the global finals this May. Cal State Long Beach collaborated with Red Bull to bring the high-flying event to campus on Tuesday, to give students an opportunity to stretch their innovative wings and vie for the chance to board an actual plane to another country.

DSC 0922 900x602As one of 75 national qualifiers held on college campuses nationwide, contestants' at CSULB were judged based on distance, airtime and aerobatics. The two top pilots in the entire United States, however, will advance to the global final. So while Long Beach State students faced some major competition ranging far outside the University Student Union Ballroom, the event was was a spectacular show of lively innovation, technique and creativity.   

Marvin Flores, a second-year History major at CSULB, threw his compact plane an impressive 86 ft., far past the provided 50-foot runway, to snag the win for the distance category. He said that this was the first time he's ever made and flown a paper aircraft. His folding technique, he said, had everything to do with downsizing.

"I was just folding it to see how small I could get it," he explained. "The smallness, the way it's pointed forward, and then the way its lifted under, it just works perfectly."

DSC 0931 900x602Dyllan Franks won for longest airtime, throwing his folded masterpiece to float above the heads of a whooping and hollering audience for an impressive 7.75 seconds, while Ryan Naccarato bested his opponents in the Aerobatics competition by making several different styles of planes using different colors.

Other competitors stopped by for the pure fun of it, attracted, perhaps, by M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" fittingly being blasted from the USU's ballroom.

Karen Thompson, a Health Science Major at CSULB, was on her way to Carl's Jr. when she heard the commotion that sparked her curiosity. Luckily for her, she grew up making paper airplanes with her family.

DSC 1003 900x602"I have two older brothers so we would always have airplane competitions," she said. "But, it would be more so about hitting targets and then I tried to teach my nephew how to fold paper airplanes."

When asked for advice about how to make a decent plane, Thompson had a number techniques to impart.

"It helps to have fingernails so you can really get the edges down smooth," she said, "and then just distributing the weight, especially if it's going to be a long distance. You don't want the weight in the front, because you don't want it to go too fast, you want it completely distributed. Then you want to pick up the back end so that it doesn't fall too hard."

DSC 0950 900x602Alexis Rockwell, a senior at CSULB and Beach Pride Programs Assistant, is all about bringing exciting events to campus that maybe only a college student would be willing to try.

“I think we're a group of people that are always willing to try something new and exciting. You can throw anything in front of a college student and they'll be like, 'Okay, I'll try it,' but maybe an adult working in the real world won't do it.”

“Paper airplanes, it's something that you've been doing since you were a kid and who knew that you could win a trip to Austria to throw the furthest one,” she continued. “That was an enticing point for us. I think travel is very important for students and Americans don't travel enough, so that Red Bull provides an opportunity to travel for something maybe as silly as throwing a paper airplane is a really cool experience for students to say, 'Hey, I went to Austria because I can throw a paper airplane this far,' is amazing. Not many people can say that.”

The Red Bull Paper Wings contest is held in 80 different countries, with national qualifiers just getting underway. Currently, Bidipta Bikash Das from India holds the longest “qualiflying” airtime with a 11.01 seconds, Orlando Anderson from the U.S. holds the top distance at 89.80M and Jasmin Gesche from Germany has 30 points, along with six other contestants, for aerobatics.

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