Observations and results
When you threw the Frisbee as flat and horizontal as you could, did it generally fly relatively straight (not far to the left or right) and pretty far? When you threw the Frisbee tilted up a little, did it fly pretty high and far but not as straight, going off to the side near the end of its flight? When you threw the Frisbee tilted down a little, did it fly not nearly as far—and did it also go off to the side?
To fly well, the Frisbee needs enough lift, and not too much drag. When the Frisbee is thrown tilted downward, it does not have much lift and so it quickly falls to the ground. When the Frisbee is thrown relatively horizontal, it has a good amount of lift and consequently should fly relatively far—at least much farther than when the Frisbee was thrown tilted down. When an even larger launch angle is used, the Frisbee has more lift. You may have noticed, however, that although the Frisbee thrown upward flew relatively high, it probably stalled out rather abruptly near the end of its flight. This may have caused it to land gently and/or quickly go off to the side. Of the three launch angles tested in this activity, the horizontal launches probably resulted in the overall "best" Frisbee throws in terms of distance and straightness.
More to explore
What Do a Submarine, a Rocket, and a Football Have in Common? from Scientific American
What effect does the rim of a Frisbee have on its flight? from Ask Us Sport! Science at the Exploratorium
The Physics of the Frisbee (pdf) from Katherine Keller at the University of Florida
NASA Glenn Research Center: The Beginner's Guide to Aeronautics from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
The Physics of Frisbees (pdf) from V. R. Morrison at Mount Allison University, Canada
The "Ultimate" Science Fair Project: Flying Disk Aerodynamics from Science Buddies
This activity brought to you in partnership with Science Buddies