MPPS Science Fair

Make Your Own Hovercraft

Information

Difficulty Beginner (Easy)
Time Required Very Short (≤ 1 day)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Very Low (under $20)
Safety If using epoxy, adult assistance is required, use caution, and follow all of the instructions and safety warnings on the packaging.

Abstract

Have you ever ridden on a hovercraft? It is like gliding on a cushion of air! In this science project, you will make your own mini hovercraft using a CD or DVD and a balloon and investigate how the amount of air in the balloon affects how long the hovercraft hovers.

Objective

Investigate how different amounts of air in the hovercraft’s balloon affect how long the hovercraft can hover.

Materials and Equipment

  • Pop-top lid from a plastic drinking bottle, sometimes found on reusable plastic drinking bottles.
  • An old CD or DVD that you do not mind destroying
  • Craft glue or epoxy that works with plastics. If you use a pop-top lid you can use either the craft glue or epoxy.
  • Medium-size balloons (should be able to inflate up to at least 28cm).
  • Optional: Balloon pump
  • Stopwatch
  • Large flat surface for testing the hovercraft
  • Lab notebook

Experimental Procedure

  1. First you will construct the base of the hovercraft, so gather your supplies and prepare a craft space.
  2. Remove a pop-top lid from a plastic drinking bottle.
  3. Glue the base of the lid to the CD (or DVD) so that the lid covers the hole in the center of the CD.
    1. If you are using a pop-top lid, you can use craft glue or epoxy to do this.
      1. If you want to use epoxy, have adult help and use caution, following all of the instructions and safety warnings on the packaging.
      2. When using the glue or epoxy, be careful to only let epoxy go on the top side of the CD.
      3. If glue or epoxy dries on the bottom of the CD, this may make your hovercraft not work because it could have increased friction.
  4. Allow the glue to dry completely.
    1. Optional: You can make several of these if you like by repeating steps 2-3.
  5. Get ready to test the hovercraft with your balloon inflated to different sizes.
    1. Make sure the pop-top lid is closed.
  6. Blow the balloon up as large as you safely can without popping it, then pinch the balloon’s neck so that no air can escape.
  7. Stretch the neck of the balloon over the pop-top lid or valve, being careful not to let any air escape.
    1. Carefully center the balloon’s opening above the pop-top lid opening.
    2. Tip: If the pop-top lid detaches from the CD and you used craft glue to glue them together, carefully re-glue them using epoxy.
  8. Your completed hovercraft should now look like the one of the ones in Figure 2 below. It is now ready to do some hovering!

 

homemade hovercraftsFigure 2. Your completed hovercraft should look like one of the ones shown here. The hovercraft on the left was made using a pop-top lid while the hovercraft on the right was made using a valve.

 

  1. In your lab notebook, make a data table like Table 1. You will be recording your results in the data table.
Trial Large Balloon Medium Balloon Small Balloon
#1
#2
#3
#4
#5
Average
Table 1. In your lab notebook, make a data table like this and record your results in it.
  1. Place the hovercraft on a flat surface and prepare your timer.
  2. Start your timer, open the pop top lid, and push the hovercraft. Stop the timer when the hovercraft stops hovering.
  3. In your data table, record the time in second (s) that the hovercraft hovered for. Write your result down as a trial for the “Large Balloon.”
  4. Remove the balloon and close the pop-top lid or valve.
  5. Test your hovercraft four more times with the balloon inflated with a large amount of air.
    1. Do this by repeating steps 6-7 and 10-13 four more times.
  6. Test your hovercraft five times with the balloon inflated with a medium amount of air.
    1. Do this by repeating steps 6-7 and 10-13 five times, but this time only inflate the balloon to a medium size and write your results down as trials for the “Medium Balloon.”
    2. For example, if it took three breaths to blow the balloon up as large as you safely could, use only two breaths or a little less to inflate it this time.
  7. Test your hovercraft five times with the balloon inflated with a small amount of air.
    1. Do this by repeating steps 6-7 and 10-13 five times, but this time only inflate the balloon to a small size and write your results down as trials for the “Small Balloon.”
    2. For example, if it took three breaths to fill the balloon to its maximum size, use only one breath or less to blow it up now.
  8. Calculate the average hover time in seconds for each balloon size.
    1. Do this calculation by separately adding together the times of all five trials for each balloon size, and then dividing your answer by five.
  9. Using your average hover time in seconds for each balloon size, make a bar graph of how long the hovercraft hovered for each balloon size.
    1. Draw a bar for each balloon size up to the corresponding value, and be sure to label your columns.
  10. Analyze your data and make your conclusions. Did you notice any trends? Which size balloon correlated with the hovercraft hovering for the longest period of time? Why do you think this happened?
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