Science Fair Research Paper Outline Science Buddies Hovercraft

Difficulty
Time RequiredShort (2-5 days)

*Note: This is an abbreviated Project Idea, without notes to start your background research, a specific list of materials, or a procedure for how to do the experiment. You can identify abbreviated Project Ideas by the asterisk at the end of the title. If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk.

Abstract

You can make a very simple hovercraft with a stiff, disposable plate-a pie plate should work well-and a balloon. Glue a square of cardboard in the center of the bottom of the plate. Make a small hole through the center of both of these layers. Enlarge the hole slightly with a pencil. Push a balloon through the hole so that the opening is on the front side of the plate, and rest of the balloon sticks out from the back. Blow up the balloon, then set the plate down (balloon side up). What happens? Add weight (using clay or pennies) symmetrically around the edge of the plate to measure amount of lift force. Can you control the direction of motion by making an outlet in the edge of the plate? (Parker, 2005, 14-15) Can you see any effect of changing the hole diameter? (This may be hard to measure.) You can also research and build more elaborate types of hovercraft using battery-powered fans for lift.

Cite This Page

MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "The Paper Plate Hovercraft" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 28 July 2017. Web. 14 Mar. 2018 <https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Aero_p027/aerodynamics-hydrodynamics/make-a-paper-plate-hovercraft>

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2017, July 28). The Paper Plate Hovercraft. Retrieved March 14, 2018 from https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Aero_p027/aerodynamics-hydrodynamics/make-a-paper-plate-hovercraft



Last edit date: 2017-07-28

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Difficulty
Time RequiredAverage (6-10 days)
PrerequisitesYou will need to work with some power tools, such as an electric saw and an electric drill.
Material Availability Readily available
CostAverage ($50 - $100)
SafetyRequires adult supervision. Use safety goggles when using power tools. Please review the Hovercraft Safety Guidelines below the Experimental Procedure.

Abstract

Looking for an exciting new mode of transportation? In this science fair project, you will build a working hovercraft that will glide over surfaces on a cushion of air. And it's simpler to build than you might think!

Objective

The objective of this science fair project is to build a hovercraft on which you can glide over a flat surface.

Credits

David Whyte, PhD, Science Buddies

The idea for this project came from this DragonflyTV podcast:
TPT. (2007). Hovercraft by Rachel and Sara. DragonflyTV, Twin Cities Public Television.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Svlq_04FcDA

Frisbee® is a registered trademark of the Wham-O toy company.

Cite This Page

MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "Riding on Air—Build a Real Hovercraft" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 3 Mar. 2018. Web. 14 Mar. 2018 <https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Aero_p036/aerodynamics-hydrodynamics/build-and-ride-a-hovercraft>

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2018, March 3). Riding on Air—Build a Real Hovercraft. Retrieved March 14, 2018 from https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Aero_p036/aerodynamics-hydrodynamics/build-and-ride-a-hovercraft



Last edit date: 2018-03-03

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Introduction

A hovercraft is a type of vehicle that rides on air that is under pressure. A flexible curtain, called a skirt, is attached to the outer perimeter of the craft to contain the air beneath it. The diagram in Figure 1 shows some of the key parts of a commercial hovercraft. The propellers force air toward the back of the craft, creating a forward thrust. The fans direct the air that is under pressure into the chamber beneath the craft. This air cushion lifts the hovercraft up, creating a small gap between the craft and the ground, for air to escape.

Check out the short Dragonfly video to see an example of how two students, Rachel and Sara, designed and built a working hovercraft. Then read on to see how you can build one, too.

Rachel and Sara found that different types of skirts, one tight and one baggy, affected how the hovercraft worked. To determine how the air was flowing out from beneath the hovercraft, they placed glitter under the hovercraft. Then they tested the two types of skirts for speed and for maneuverability in obstacle courses.

The goals of this project are 1) to build a hovercraft on which you can glide over a flat surface, and 2) to test what features affect the performance of the hovercraft. There are a number of variables that you will need to consider:

  • Air pressure - The amount of weight that the hovercraft will be able to carry will depend on the amount of air pressure produced by the leaf blower. The hovercraft in the video used a gas-powered leaf blower. You could also try an electric leaf blower.
  • Surface - The type of surface that the hovercraft is over will also affect performance. Smooth, flat surfaces allow the formation of an air cushion under the craft. Irregular surfaces may pose a problem since the air in the air cushion can escape, lowering the pressure under the craft.
  • Hovercraft design - Consider ways to improve the performance of the hovercraft. For example, is there a better pattern for the vent holes? How does the amount of material in the skirt affect the height of the hovercraft above the ground?
  • Materials - Test different materials for the skirt to see which give you the best results.

Terms and Concepts

Before you build your hovercraft, make sure you know what the following terms mean. Have an adult help you search the Internet or take you to your local library to find out more.

  • Hovercraft
  • Air cushion
  • Air pressure
  • Friction

Questions

  • How does a hovercraft work?
  • What factors did you have to control to make your hovercraft work?
  • Will friction have an effect on your hovercraft? If so, what?

Bibliography

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Variations

The basic hovercraft you built can be modified to provide more control, and to test other designs. For each of these variations, ask yourself "How will this change in design affect the performance of the hovercraft?". Write your predictions down, along with a brief justification for each one. Compare your predictions to what actually happened.

  • Try different types of materials for the skirt.
  • Try making the air cushion bigger or smaller by changing the size of the skirt.
  • Try changing the size, position or number of vent holes.
  • Add braking and steering systems.
  • Add a means of providing forward thrust (using a second leaf blower, for example).
  • Try different-sized bases for carrying larger loads.
  • Try to measure the air pressure under the hovercraft.
  • Compare the hovercraft's performance over different surfaces.
  • For a more basic hovercraft project, see this Science Buddies project idea How Does a Hovercraft Work?

Share your story with Science Buddies!

Yes,I Did This Project! Please log in (or create a free account) to let us know how things went.

If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers:

Aerospace Engineer

Humans have always longed to fly and to make other things fly, both through the air and into outer space—aerospace engineers are the people that make those dreams come true. They design, build, and test vehicles like airplanes, helicopters, balloons, rockets, missiles, satellites, and spacecraft. Read more

Mechanical Engineer

Mechanical engineers are part of your everyday life, designing the spoon you used to eat your breakfast, your breakfast's packaging, the flip-top cap on your toothpaste tube, the zipper on your jacket, the car, bike, or bus you took to school, the chair you sat in, the door handle you grasped and the hinges it opened on, and the ballpoint pen you used to take your test. Virtually every object that you see around you has passed through the hands of a mechanical engineer. Consequently, their skills are in demand to design millions of different products in almost every type of industry. Read more

News Feed on This Topic

Note: A computerized matching algorithm suggests the above articles. It's not as smart as you are, and it may occasionally give humorous, ridiculous, or even annoying results! Learn more about the News Feed

 

, ,

Looking for more science fun?

Try one of our science activities for quick, anytime science explorations. The perfect thing to liven up a rainy day, school vacation, or moment of boredom.

Find an Activity

Thank you for your feedback!

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