The project I will conduct will observe the path taken by a frisbee in flight from a “backhand huck.” There are two facets to my project, the aesthetics of the path taken and the math behind the aerodynamics of a frisbee. 

A backhand huck is used in ultimate frisbee at many of the most vital times in a game. An official game of ultimate frisbee begins with a “pull” where the frisbee is sent from one end of the field to the other by the defending team. Often, a backhand throw is used for this because it is the easiest to put enough power behind using the rotation of the torso and hips. To throw a backhand, the thrower steps with their dominant foot across their body and the disc starts at the non-dominant side. This movement will be demonstrated in the final project through a visual presentation. 

In a study done by Kathleen Baumback at the University of South Florida in 2010, the path of a frisbee was recorded in relationship to its initial angle. A series of calculations and formulas was used to understand the aerodynamics of a frisbee. Frisbees have multiple elements of their shape, as well as components such as spin, that enable them to maintain “lift” after the disc has left the hand of the thrower. This experiment was done to reproduce a similar study in 2005 which sought to “predict the path of a frisbee” (Baumback 3). This study recognizes the mathematic derivations to determine how the angle of initial release impacts the forces of lift and drag on the frisbee’s flight. All calculations and determinations were done through Java programming. 

The mathematics in my project are tailored more towards the aesthetics of a frisbee’s flight rather than the practicality of predicting it. I am interested also in taking the derivative of the determined graph (if possible) to understand the change in the frisbee’s angle over time. Two graphs will be created, one is similar to Baumback’s study of distance where the height reached by the frisbee will be observed over time and the other will study the angle of the disc with respect to the ground. 

Though not mathematically profound, this project serves to represent the beauty of seeing mathematical concepts in practice. Much more research could be done to comprehend how and why the physical shape and size of a frisbee impacts its flight. Additionally, the visualization of how a disc moves through the air will provide some clarity for me as a thrower to understand the disc’s momentum. 

There are many variables that influence the graphing of a frisbee in flight, both in the movement of the frisbee as well as the camera set-up and post-filming production content. I will video a frisbee in flight, ensuring that the camera is positioned behind the thrower. The angle behind the thrower will show the angle of the disc with relation to the ground, and the camera will be set up in a way that ensures that the bottom of the screen is parallel to the ground. From this angle, I will record both the degrees of inclination from the horizontal at various points in time, as well as the height of the disc from the ground. 

The original plan to observe the distance traveled by the disc was thrwarted when we took to the fields and realized that the disc’s distance would be impossible to capture in one frame of a video, and similarly difficult to measure on a screen. The height measurement is still accurate with regards to the screen because the camera was set up perfectly perpendicular to the ground.

Data and Methodology

Works Cited

Baumback, K. (2013). The Aerodynamics of Frisbee Flight. Undergraduate Journal of Mathematical Modeling: One + Two, 3(1). doi:10.5038/2326-3652.3.1.31


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