kids flying

Here is a video (13.7 MB, it does not seem to stream on all browsers, so you might have to right click and "save as" to view it) that Noel sent of the Portola Valley Community Center “Flight Night”. He said, “These two girls were flying the walk-alongs minutes after making them with no instruction or guidance other than their observation of others flying them. ” Notice the dog observing the fun!


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When I first started making thin foam walkalong gliders, I had to tape on a pattern—which took too much time. For years I developed various folding jigs and they worked; but the jigs were hard to make, involved complicated taped hinges and the foam had to be repositioned several times. Noel Eberhardt, a retired engineer in California, took the quest to the finish line! His folder design is elegant, effective and so easy to make and use. It’s a game-changer for people making walkalong gliders with groups.

Apart from this accomplishment, Noel Eberhardt is a case study of Pasteur’s observation of how fortune favors the prepared mind. His life is rich with eclectic experiences and inventions, some of which I’ve written about below, after we look at his procedure.




Even before discovering very thin foam walkalong gliders, Noel was teaching groups of young people how to make gliders from foam plates.



Here are some screen shots from a video about the old folding jigs that I developed. They worked, but were difficult to make. You can see the early folding jigs in this video

mass production1 mass production 2
This is my old tool, made from thin cardboard, used to make the front "camber" folds. It required that the foam be pulled out and repositioned for the second camber fold. The back elevon required a different folding jig, so positioning the foam a total of 3 times per glider. By contrast to that, Noel's design only requires on jig and one positioning of the foam.


Here are a few pictures of Noel’s new procedure. Links to the full set are below

cut template folding jig foam goes in
Noel uses thin plastic (red) to make a cutting template for the foam This is his folding jig--hinged with tape. Simple, but so effective! The foam goes in...
like this positioned elevon fold this. The foam is positioned by aligning with the bottom of the jig. Noel used fingers to bend the camber. Using a flat surface is possible too.
camber fold cut aluminum almost ready
The elevons go the opposite way as the camber. Using a rotary cutter for the aluminum foil front weights. Almost ready to fly.


As Noel and I spoke about the folding jig, I became intrigued about the way his mind worked. Not surprisingly, he was an engineer, with 30 patents. He was with Intel in the earliest days. Intel was making electronic watches to create a demand for the new-fangled IC chips that was their passion, but nobody else really understood what to do with them. The high-profile watch company at the time, Timex, bought out that part of Intel. When Noel asked the CEO why he wanted the Intel engineers, the CEO replied, “You guys are doing what my guys are saying can’t be done!”

Just as decades later he simplified my complicated folding jigs, he worked with a philosophy of, “If it moves, engineer it out!” At that time, almost all assemblies were held together with screws, which Noel hated. He pioneered the methods of parts snapping together that are so common today. Noel also worked with Motorola an Fairchild.   

After retirement stayed active with projects like engineering a soar water-pumping setup for a friend who is raising postachios. At the age of 80 Noel started learning Japanese. Noel’s wife is from Peru and his son is also an engineer. The father and son have collaborated on such innovative projects as a push-bike to make learning to ride a bike easier for kids. It was picked up by the New York Times in 2006


1 Flat pattern templates
2 Wing cutouts & template
3 folding templates
4 hinged templates
5 wing placement on template
6 closing template over wing
7a ready for alignment in template
7b carefully aligned
8 elevon aligned to edge
9 ...other elevon aligned!
10 Note how edges align!
11 Leading edge folded DOWN!
12a elevons folded UP!
12b removed from folding template
13 aluminum foil, measured & marked
14 cutting foil with rotary cutter
15 separating a single nose weight
16 voila! a single nose weight
17 crumpling into LONG LENGTH!
18 VOILA! completed crumpling!
19 nose weight placement
20 nose weight taped in place
21 nose weight gently formed
22 wing given slight dihedral