Despite a fairly limited number of useful real-world applications, just about everyone you meet will think hovercraft are cool. As it turns out, you can make a model hovercraft at home with very few materials needed, and Discovery Centre is here to tell you how.
You will need: one CD or DVD (which you may not get back!), a balloon, some tape and a cap from a dish soap bottle (more on this later). A straw may also help, but isn’t necessary.
You make your hovercraft by attaching your bottle top and balloon together. You want the small opening in the top to go into the neck of the balloon — stretch the balloon around enough of the cap that it will stay put, and tape it in place if you need to. Attach the bottle top to the disc (CD or DVD) so that the largest opening of the top is against the disk. Tape everything together so that there is a good air-tight seal among balloon, bottle top and disc.
Inflate the balloon either by blowing against the hole in the bottom of the CD or by sticking a straw up into that hole until you get a good seal (pinch the balloon’s neck if you need to). When you release the air from the balloon, the whole apparatus should hover on most flat surfaces — give it a push!
Hovercraft work on a simple principle: air will tend to move from an area of high pressure (like an inflated balloon) to an area of lower pressure (the room outside the balloon). As long as the weight of the whole hovercraft isn’t greater than the force of the air escaping, the hovercraft will lift to allow a small space between the surface and itself for the air to escape. Full-sized hovercraft use big engines to create air pressure, and there are lots of easy ways to improve your own homemade one — try changing the size of the object that joins your balloon and disc (a spool, for example), or check sites like Instructables for more inspiration!
Inspiration is always in abundance around Discovery Centre! Our next visiting exhibition is Sesame Street Presents: The Body, and it arrives at the end of May — put us in your calendar!