Building a Hovercraft Science Project


6769_100121036671012_100000193470961_521_4265928_nLook, Mom, No Wheels!  | Building a Hovercraft Science Project

by:  Norm Barstow

The first practical design of the hovercraft was completed in the late 1950’s by British engineer, Sir Christopher Cockerell.  Since then, the continued development of this invention has been ongoing, and currently, the hovercraft is being used commercially, by the military, and for personal use.  Teachers have been constructing versions of the hovercraft using balloons, film canisters and flat materials in classrooms for years.

The principle behind the hovercraft’s levitation is that when the air is released from the balloon, it hits the ground and rushes outward in all directions. The air flowing from the balloon through the holes forms a layer of air between the hovercraft and the table. This reduces the friction (the resistance that occurs when two object rub against each other) that would have existed if the hovercraft rested directly on the table. With less friction, your hovercraft scoots across the table.

Furthermore, extra air molecules are packed underneath the structure, which in turn increases the pressure under the hovercraft.  This increased pressure below the craft produces an overall upward pressure force on the craft therefore it supports its weight. Since air molecules are always leaking out from beneath the craft, you’ll need a source of air molecules to replace them, which is provided by the balloon.

Materials:Building a Hovercraft Science Project

·      Large plastic plate (not the inflexible type)
·      Foam meat tray from grocery store  (6.5” X 8.5”)
·      Old CD
·      Stiff cardboard

  • Poster putty such as Blue Tak, or Poster Tak
  • Smooth surface
  • Hole instrument: Ball point pen tip or hot nail or drill.

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Film Canister Leyden Jars with Video


Tami O'Connorby: Tami O’Connor

During my 16 years in the classroom, my students and I have accumulated a plethora of fond and one or two not-so-fond memories. One memory that still makes me cringe deals with the amount of time I spent traveling from one film-processing center to the next, in search of those perfect little containers I made such great use of within the walls of my science Rocket Film Canistersclassroom. I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about…those little containers, which could be used for everything from conveniently and securely storing small amounts of solids or liquids to acting as the engine compartment of the well-known makeshift paper rocket.

What versatile things those film canisters are…

Thanks to Bob Morse of St. Albans, we have found yet another use for those mini containers. In this short segment, Bob demonstrates how to construct a simple Leyden jar that is large enough to produce a nice spark, yet small enough to be perfectly safe, and best of all, durable enough to reuse over and over again! The only materials needed are a film can, a small strip of aluminum foil, a paper clip, a small section of PVC pipe, a cloth or piece of fur to rub on the pipe and a small amount of water.

How to Build a Leyden Jar

Rocket Film CanistersIn this age of digital cameras, 35mm film canisters are becoming a thing of the past. Educational Innovations can supply you with clean film canisters to use in your home or classroom. Check out the other activities we have for film canisters, and please feel free to share your own ideas with us.