Homemade hovercraft captivates APSU’s junior campers
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Homemade hovercraft captivates APSU’s junior campers

APSU’s Bryan Gaither prepares to don an Iron Man mask and his across the gym floor on his homemade hovercraft. Attendees of the university’s Junior Govs Summer Camp are in the background.

On a slow Friday afternoon, Austin Peay State University’s Bryan Gaither built a hovercraft. 

He captured a video of its maiden flight and sent it to some friends: “So I got bored and built a hovercraft.”

That 27-second video showed him petering along on the craft made of plywood and powered by two fire extinguishers and a leaf blower before he crashed into a pile of metal beams. The short trip also exhausted the fire extinguishers.

Gaither – the APSU Department of Physics, Engineering and Astronomy lab manager – set out to improve on his creation, and by the following Tuesday, he had the second version with bigger fire extinguishers (and even a small license plate emblazoned with the word “Science”).

Gaither showed off the craft to youngsters at Junior Govs Summer Camps at the Foy Fitness & Recreation Center basketball courts. He donned an Iron Man mask and pirate’s jacket and hissed across the gym floor.

That 35-second ride captivated the junior campers – and some grown basketball players on the next court (the Facebook video of the second flight attracted over 6,000 Facebook video views in its first 24 hours).

Here’s a bird's-eye view of APSU Department of Physics, Engineering and Astronomy’s homemade hovercraft, built by Bryan Gaither.

Here’s how to make your own hovercraft

Gaither made his hovercraft in about four or five hours, using Science Bob’s instructions found here (https://sciencebob.com/build-a-hovercraft-you-can-ride); all you need is plywood, heavy-duty plastic tarp, bolts and washers and a leaf blower (the fire extinguishers are optional for steering). It also helps to have a nice, smooth surface to glide on.

Gaither deviated from the instructions and made some of his own modifications, and he’s planning a third version of the hovercraft, specifically using variable valving to better control the thrust and steering.

“I’ll try to mimic the controlled thrusting used to dock space craft in Zero-G (no gravity),” he said.

Who knows? Maybe it will have handlebar streamers.