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ISU Campus Connection
4 June 2004

By Jennifer Wilson

Indiana State University’s Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) and Society of Automotive Engineer (SAE) have teamed up to build a hovercraft. The students hope to enter a few races in the fall of 2004 …

With encouragement from Chris Fitzgerald, founder of the World Hovercraft Organization and president of Neoteric Hovercraft, Inc., in Terre Haute, the ISU team has spent long hours planning, designing and building their hovercraft from a material kit purchased from Universal Hovercraft in Harvard, Ill. The materials kit the ISU team is using consists of plywood, foam, fiberglass, epoxy, contact cement, PVC-coated nylon, a propeller, an aluminum hub, a 10 horsepower Tecumseh engine, and screws and pulleys.

The purchase of the kit was made possible by a donation of $1,060 from the local parent chapter of SME 275. The local chapter 275 has been a big supporter of the ISU student chapter 089.

A team of 15 ISU students began working on the Hovercraft project in January 2004.

“A lot of SME guys are graduating and we really wanted to do something before we were gone,” Dave Oelschlager, a senior from Columbia City, Ind., said.

The students downloaded a set of hovercraft blueprints from www.DiscoverHover.org, the website of the World Hovercraft Organization’s International School Hovercraft Program, which provides hovercraft plans and instructions at no charge to students, schools and youth organizations. The ISU team then began a redesign of the original blueprints.

According to Oelschlager, who is heavily involved in the project, the redesigning of the blueprints took well over 70 hours of volunteer work. Through the use of AutoCAD and Pro-E, junior high and high school students can easily understand the new blueprints.

Rob Wilson, Neoteric Hovercraft’s Technical Director in Australia, is currently reviewing the new plans for accuracy.

“ISU is playing a key role in taking the DiscoverHover Build-a-Hovercraft School Project to schools and students throughout the world by creating a prototype project for the program and improving the original plans,” said the marketing director for Neoteric Hovercraft and the World Hovercraft Organization.

James Smallwood, chairperson and professor of manufacturing/construction technology and Mike Hayden, professor of industrial/mechanical technology, serve as advisers to the students.

“When an organization does a project like this, it gives students additional real-life, problem-solving skills,” Smallwood said. “They are not only doing the work, they are managing a project. We’ve learned that, all else being equal, a manager who has experience in the technology behind a project is a better manager than one who does not have that experience, we’re preparing managers.”

Hovercraft operate by floating on a cushion of air over land, water, ice and mud. “They’re very environmentally friendly, with little impact,” Herring continued. “A hovercraft can be flown over a nest of bird’s eggs without harming them."


The photo above was taken at the end of spring semester, 2004. Students were able to get the craft running around Campus, but it still needs to be painted and fine-tuned.


All Material © 2003-2004 World Hovercraft Organization