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  :: Featured Schools :: Armstrong Atlantic State University

Armstrong Atlantic State University
Applying classroom education to real world design

Preparing to build a hovercraft



Dr. Cameron Coates and members of the AASU Engineering Design Team prepare to build their hovercraft.
Engineering students at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Georgia, are following in the footsteps of renowned hovercraft inventors Sir Christopher Cockerell of Great Britain and Dr. William Bertelson of the United States. They aren't just building a DiscoverHover One hovercraft … they're using the information on DiscoverHover.org to create their own original hovercraft design.

Dr. Cameron Coates, Assistant Professor of Engineering Studies in AASU's School of Computing, reports that this is the first time he has undertaken a hovercraft project with his students.

"It was not my idea, it was theirs; they were pretty enthusiastic about it," he says. "They asked me what I thought about getting pre-designed plans or designing their own hovercraft. Since I teach design, I wanted them to engineer from scratch, realizing it was an excellent opportunity for them to learn all the issues involved with coming up with a new design, and really get a chance to exercise their own ingenuity, creativity and resourcefulness."



Hovercraft engine
  AASU's hovercraft engines were donated by Briggs & Stratton.
But when Dr. Coates found the DiscoverHover web site, he passed it on to his students. "I wanted them to do full-fledged research on what's out there. But DiscoverHover has been a large part of that," he says, "The site is great, very positive. You can take this project and look at it from all different levels. It can be applicable to middle to high school students to graduate students."

Even though the AASU hovercraft project is a function of the Armstrong Engineering Club, Dr. Coates explains, "We're not just building it, it's actually a course. There's a grade for the last two semesters as well as this semester, so we treat it as a serious learning experience."

The AASU hovercraft project is giving its students realistic experience in areas far beyond that of engineering design. The team raised funds to build their hovercraft by introducing it in a highly professional manner to potential donors. First they created a detailed PowerPoint presentation. Next, they sent letters to area businesses to explain the project, then made appointments to go out to show their PowerPoint presentation in person.

Hovercraft project presentation



AASU Engineering Design students present their hovercraft project to potential donors.

"It gets sponsors really excited about the project," says Dr. Coates, "and it lets the students know what it's all about outside of school when you need to sell a proposal."

This approach convinced a nearby Briggs & Stratton plant to donate two engines to the students' hovercraft project.

Dr. Coates has expertly woven such practical experience into his students' building of their hovercraft because he believes "The most valuable aspect has been giving them experience with the practical aspects of design, for example money, budgeting, choosing the right component – the things you don't get in school."



Hovercraft design team
  The Armstrong Atlantic State University Engineering Design Team in their hovercraft.
His students have also designed a web site with extensive photo galleries to showcase their hovercraft project at www.hummercraft.com.

Once the hovercraft is completed, Dr. Coates and his students will host a special event "where all contributors will come and celebrate our accomplishment." The hovercraft has already been entered into an engineering presentation competition, where the AASU team won first place, and they plan to enter it into other academic competitions in the near future. They are also considering selling hovercraft rides at the university's AASU Day.

The hovercraft will remain at either the Armstrong Atlantic or Georgia Tech campus, to use as a marketing tool for the engineering programs at both schools. Dr. Coates plans to use the craft "to demonstrate to high schools and say, Hey, look what you can do at AASU; look how much fun you can have!"

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