Kids Love to Fly! (and Two Other Things We Learned at WSTE)

April 1, 2015

This past weekend, we brought our hovercrafts to the Wellesley Education Foundation’s STEM Expo — and had a blast. We loved meeting with the students and learners of all ages, and were thrilled to get to share our love of hovercrafts with so many people. Check out the event below — and find out where we'll be next!

1) STEM is Alive and Well in Wellesley
This past weekend, Explo packed up our road show and participated in the Wellesley Education Foundation’s STEM Expo. The annual event, held at Wellesley’s beautiful high school, drew dozens of exhibitors and a crowd of more than 4,000 participants (and their parents). Packed to the gills with wind tunnels, robots, kites, turbines, computer programs, whales… the school was a bustling hive of exploration. 


Ride a Hovercraft!
On Sunday, April 12, 2015, we're hosting the Explo Learning Festival — an afternoon of fun, discovery, and exploration — on the campus of Wheaton College for students ages 6 to 12. Build a hovercraft, then ride on one, too!


2) Explo Draws a Crowd
Having participated in the event last year, we had an idea as to the number of people who might come out for it, so our Curriculum Department was more than ready. In the weeks leading up to the event, they had prepped more than 800 hovercraft experiments... By the end of the day, they were all gone! Many of the students came to our exhibit for the chance to ride a hovercraft. But before that could happen, we started them off on a smaller scale — assembling a hovercraft from three simple household components: a CD, a dish soap bottle cap, and a balloon.

How It Works
Alone, a CD will slide only a short distance on a flat surface. When you start to release air through the hole in the center of the CD (via the balloon/dishsoap bottle cap), that air escapes in all directions under the CD — and the CD floats on a cushion of air with very little resistance. So essentially, you've just created an upside down air hockey table.


Build a Hovercraft!
Want to build your own hovercraft? You'll need four things — a fan, an engine, a deck, and a skirt (not that kind of skirt). We found all the parts at our local hardware store (minus the meat tray, which we found at the grocery store).

To build (and trick out) your own, download our detailed hovercraft plans and get started!


3) Kids Love to Fly!
Successfully finishing the CD hovercraft experiment was your ticket to fly. Students moved from our CD hovercraft room to our ride-on hovercraft room next door, where we upscaled the experiment — replacing the CD with a 4-foot plywood disc, and the balloon with a leaf blower.

When the leaf blower is turned on, it inflates a skirt under the plywood. By sitting on the plywood disc, the student’s weight forces the air trapped underneath to escape under the skirt. In those moments, the hovercraft (and its rider) are floating on a very thin cushion of air. Riding on a cushion of air means levitating (in motion) a millimeter off the ground — but flying is flying. And the reaction is the same — kids love it!


By Lisa Merlini

Tag: Exploring Education

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