Phs Students Build Hovercraft From Leaf Blower, Propeller, Plywood


The two unidentified crafts hovering low over the soccer field on the way to Taylor Pool last week were hovercrafts.

They were created this semester by the sophomores, juniors and seniors in the drafting class at Payson High School.

After all their work -- drafting and building a vehicle that would defy gravity -- the group had to find a place to test the craft. They were not allowed in Green Valley Park because the hovercraft is a motorized vehicle. Finally, they launched for the first time at Taylor Pool.

"The (hovercrafts) worked awesome -- perfect," said sophomore Matt West. "It wasn't hard to get it on the water. We had a couple people

in the pool. They kind of helped it in."

The hovercraft in the pool drove "reasonably quick but not super-fast."

The engine and the prop are on the back of the craft. Even with a student in the driver's seat, it was difficult to balance the weight.

It was an engineering challenge the class examined and solved.

At first, in order for the craft to remain stable, the driver had to scoot forward in the cockpit -- an uncomfortable position. So the students added weights to the front of the craft.

The test drive came to an end when a screw came loose and the craft started dragging in the water and had to be taken out.

"It worked fine and was flying all over the place until then," West said.

The two vehicles were tested on land before the water.

Sophomore Ricky Kabalan drove one of the hovercrafts down the football field.

"I turned kind of sharp," he said. "It made the skids on the bottom dig into the ground so I stopped suddenly and I guess the engine mount broke."


Students in Payson High School drafting instructor Patrick Underwood's class prepare to launch a hovercraft they designed and built.

It took about seven hours to rebuild the craft, but the engine mount is now much stronger.

Team leader Andrew Weatherly, a junior, had the only radio-controlled airplane that landed safely during last year's drafting class project. In February, when others doubted, Weatherly predicted the hovercrafts would hover.

The engines used by the students are 8- and 9-horsepower motors on loan from The Rock Yard and Payson Electric.

The body was made from 1/8" plywood coated in fiberglass. The skirt is neoprene-coated mylar.

A fan, propeller, weights and a leaf blower make up the rest of the components.

The hovercrafts were created from a design for a 12-horsepower motor, then built from scratch with lots of modifications.

"The air box ducts air back for thrust and down for lift," Weatherly said.

"The engines were not big enough to move the craft so we ducted in a leaf blower to get more air underneath," said junior Bryce Danielson as he cut sheet metal that would later be mounted to move more air from the propeller to the skirt.

"We had a lot of thrust, but not enough lift," said Weatherly.

"If it doesn't work, fix it," said drafting instructor Patrick Underwood.

"They are not as meticulous as an adult might be, so it's losing air, but it is all about problem solving."

In addition to building the hovercrafts, each student will have to make a PowerPoint presentation, and turn in a newspaper article as part of their project grade.

Mechanical, architectural and civil drafting and design are the focus of the class.

Weatherly uses AutoCAD 2005 to look at the hovercraft from all angles. He can even break out components with the program to see how they fit.

Underwood said he would consider the hovercraft assignment worthwhile even if they did not hover, although he is glad they worked as designed.

"It is the journey," he said. "That is where the learning takes place."

More photos and information about the hovercraft project can be found on the Web site

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