August 11, 2010

High school students build, fly hovercraft

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill -- A unique camp for high school students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale ended with them skimming over the surface of campus lake on a cushion of air.

Hovercraft camp played host to about a half-dozen students during this summer’s session, which also marked the first time campers built a full-size, operational hovercraft and flew it. During previous camps, students built small working models of hovercrafts.

The 10-day camp gave participants the opportunity to design and operate hovercraft. The College of Engineering and its Department of Technology ran the program in cooperation with the University’s Division of Continuing Education.

Camp participants worked in small teams building the hovercraft, which can carry a single pilot over water or land. Students learned teamwork, how to read a technical document, safety, and engineering, splitting each day between classroom and workshop.

On the camp’s final day, the students, along with their instructors, tested their creation on campus lake. After thorough safety briefings, students took turns flying the craft over the water and land. Each received a certificate stating their ability to operate and maintain a light hovercraft.

Department of Technology instructors for the course were Dave Allabastro, electronics engineering assistant and a long-time supporter of the SIUC hovercraft program; David Williams, senior lecturer; and Brian Snow, graduate student.