There is not much cooler than creating your own hovercraft and seeing how it compares to one built by professionals. And that’s just what eighth grade students at Norton Middle School got to do.
Mike Kramer’s Technology and Engineering class designed and built model hovercrafts out of styrofoam food containers. The designing process alone took two weeks, and the students had to prove it would work before they began construction. It took several attempts for some students, but they managed to get their crafts off the ground.
The hardest obstacle they had to overcome was the weight of their vehicles.
“We have these little batteries that we hook up and then we tried to race them down the hallway, but they weren’t powerful enough,” said Brittany D’Amore.
Norton Fire Department helped out with the project by demonstrating how their own hovercraft works. Captain Ed Burgess explained that the snowmobile engine in the craft pushes air underneath the 1,000 lb. vehicle, which is trapped by a curtain surrounding the base. These currents of air fill out the curtain, allowing the hovercraft to glide over smooth surfaces, such as the soccer field behind Norton Middle School.
The hovercraft came into the department’s possession after a boy drowned in the reservoir in 1987. The town pooled their money together through fundraising efforts and purchased the vehicle.
“We were definitely one of the first ones in the area to have a hovercraft,” Burgess said.
Other than training, the last time it was used was a few years ago in Taunton on Watson Pond for a rescue. Taunton Fire Department couldn’t reach an ice fisherman with a rope, so Norton was called in and was able to pull him out.
After driving the fire department’s hovercraft a few minutes behind Norton Middle School, Burgess let the students climb in the vehicle and get an even closer look. Burgess noted that he was impressed that they too had hovercrafts that worked.
Though the class has worked with robotics, this was the first time Kramer had a class build hovercrafts. He noted, however, that this was one of the most successful projects yet.
“This was away for the school to connect with the community and for the students to see their designs up close and working in the real world,” Kramer said.
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