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Makerspace @ The Tech: Aerial Antics

  • by Makercorps Members on August 8, 2013

    This past week at Makerspace visitors were invited to make hovercraft designs and test how they float in our wind tubes.

    We were again impressed with the innovation of The Tech's visitors. They cut and taped together materials including straws, strawberry baskets, coffee filters, pipe cleaners, and even plastic eggs into many configurations. With all the variables it was fun to predict how a hovercraft would behave in the wind tube before it was released into the air stream.

    But the designing didn't stop after a maker's first flight. Makers iterated their designs over and over as we challenged them to build hovercrafts that could stay within the wind tube or move in unusual ways. Visitors tinkered with various materials and forms until they found the right balance of lift, created by catching the upward blowing air, and weight.

    Many guests named and decorated their flying objects as well. One boy called his hovercraft Super Craft because it had a red cape. Another guest decorated her hovercraft like a Jellyfish. 

    We were inspired by the Wind Tube guide from the Exploratorium Tinkering Studio. We expanded from that idea to reconstruct the base to be taller, have a powerful airflow, a window for easily placing hovercrafts, and ultimately create a stunning presence. All of the materials were found in the Tech Studio to reconstruct the base with exception to the Polycarbonite plastic for the tubes.

    We worked together to solve problems along the way: how to elevate the fan from the ground for powerful air flow, what to make the base out of, how to hold the tube to the base, how to use minimal tools, and more. We originally started with cardboard as the base, but decided to move to the familiar Thinker Linkers as a stronger and easier customizable support for the tube! From that point, the innovative process had begun and we began to come up with solutions. Paint stirrers to hold the tube to the base, zipties to lock the Thinker Linkers in place, and dowels to hold the fan and lock into notches of the Thinker Linkers. Lots of innovative tinkering from the Maker Corps crew!
    If you would like to create your own wind table at home, The Exploratorium's Tinkering Studio has an awesome guide here:

    Kenneth Guglielmino and Lindsay Balfour are the residential Maker Corps members here at The Tech.