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  :: Featured Schools :: Wantirna College
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Wantirna College
Australian DiscoverHover pioneers

The World Hovercraft Organization commends Wantirna College for
their pioneering spirit and their successful completion of
the first DiscoverHover school project in Australia.

Hovercraft construction



The Wantirna College Technology Club grew from 14 to more than 40 students during the construction of their first DiscoverHover One.  
Schools across Australia followed with interest in 2004 as Wantirna College instructor Robert Forbes and fourteen year 9 and 10 students began construction on Australia's first DiscoverHover One hovercraft. The project ultimately served as an exemplary model of the DiscoverHover school hovercraft program in action.

Wantirna College relied extensively on DiscoverHover's free hovercraft plans and web site for guidance. The project was so successful that Robert Forbes says the school is "beginning construction on our second hovercraft using the DiscoverHover One plans … because they work!"

This was the first experience of any kind with hovercraft, for both Forbes and his students. He learned about the DiscoverHover program at a state conference conducted by the Technology Education Association of Victoria in May 2004.

The Wantirna College Technology Club began the DiscoverHover program as a three-year project, but "with the huge amount of interest from students, it may run a lot longer," says Forbes. The fourteen students who started the project have seen their ranks grow to more than forty.

DiscoverHover was designed as a unique multidisciplinary educational tool that not only fosters student interest in engineering and technology, but also gives them valuable life experience in areas ranging from marketing and public relations to team building and leadership skills. Robert Forbes meticulously followed the program to give his students the widest variety of experience.

Technology Club hovercraft project



Students painted their DiscoverHover One at Clarks BodyWorks, who also provided cash donations to the project.  
"The real value of this project is the diversity of learning that it encompasses," he says, "The obvious areas of woodworking, mechanics, and composite materials all jump to mind readily, but the physics, math, English, media and marketing are all equally important if the project is going to be successful."

With more than forty students working on this year's DiscoverHover One, Forbes and his students have organized their team much as a business is organized. Tom Burridge, a year 11 student, has been appointed Team Leader, and "Tegean, Kirstin and Chloe head the team that looks after the paperwork, tracks finances and organizes sponsorship and fundraising," says Forbes. Another team of students is creating a web page for the Wantirna College web site.

The students' fundraising efforts were rewarded by donations of materials from a local hardware store and cash donations from Silvan Australia Pty Ltd and Clarks BodyWorks, a local panel shop, who also provides facilities for the students to paint the craft. In addition, the project received funding from the school and donations from parents.

Hovercraft picture



The Wantirna College DiscoverHover One at the Hoverclub of Victoria's 2005 Easter Rally.  
Forbes says the hovercraft is also playing an important role in the school's public relations efforts. It proudly goes on display at school open days and publicity events. "Wantirna College has made a commitment to the DiscoverHover program, and I see it playing an important role in the school's growing identity as a leading government school in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne."

Team Leader Tom Burridge was involved in most aspects of last year's construction. "I spent a lot of time sanding fiberglass on the rudders and thrust duct – important to get the best performance out of the hovercraft. Along with everyone else I was involved in creating the hovercraft's body, a lot of cutting and nailing. And I was involved in the steering setup, forming a cage at the back of the thrust duct from an old screen door. Carving the propeller was the hardest aspect of the project," Tom says, "but it works fine and that is a great achievement!"

All that work did not dampen Tom's enthusiasm for the project. He believes the experience, "has been very valuable to my education. To be honest, school hadn't really interested me until the start of year 10, but building the hovercraft gave my interest for school a real boost."

Even as pioneers, Wantirna College was not without peer support for their project, as is often the case in the family atmosphere of the hovercraft world. The Hovercraft Club of Victoria enthusiastically supported the project, with members freely offering technical advice, appearing at school functions with their own hovercraft, and featuring the Wantirna DiscoverHover One at their 2005 Easter Rally and on their web site.

DiscoverHover One on water



Australia's first DiscoverHover One makes its maiden flight on water at the Hoverclub of Victoria's 2005 Easter Rally.  
At the Rally, the Club gave the students times to run their craft on both land and water so they could learn to control it well, and "How quickly they learned!" Forbes says. Team Leader Tom Burridge describes the experience, "At first you have a feeling of very little control as the craft slides all over the place. But soon we all learned how to steer correctly and that's when we really had fun. We all agreed it was the best thing we've done in recent years – I've never had so much fun!"

The Wantirna hovercraft was a highlight of the Rally. Robert Forbes relates, "One of the students' parents stayed at the Rally a short time, then left for a picnic with the student's grandmother. A short time later they came back with grandma and set up the picnic by the lake at the Rally. By the end of the day, the whole family had had a ride in DiscoverHover One … including grandma! They thought it was a great family fun event, and the club members could not have made them feel more welcome." Forbes and many of his students are now members of the Victorian hovercraft club.

ASV Hovercraft, a manufacturer in Collingwood, Victoria, also offered their generous assistance to the Wantirna College hovercraft project, providing the hovercraft engine at cost, as well as the skirt material. ASV also made sure that the students got bitten by the hovercraft bug by coming to the school to demonstrate and explain how hovercraft work.

Hover craft picture



Instructor Robert Forbes in Colin Dainty's craft at the Wantirna College debut of their DiscoverHover One. Dainty is Vice President of the Hoverclub of Victoria.  
Robert Forbes says the DiscoverHover project has been a great experience for Wantirna College, with very positive feedback from parents, students and staff. "One long-serving staff member says it's the best project he has seen at the school in his 22 years."

The benefits of the DiscoverHover program extend to everyone involved. Forbes says, "The rewards I've received as an educator cannot be put into words. When you have a student who believes he or she can't do math sit down and persist in transferring measurements and angles from plans to timber, calculating cuts so they can get the most out of the timber they have available, and to make the hovercraft fit together properly – that learning speaks for itself!"

The students anticipate more rewards yet to come. Tom Burridge is ready to race and was excited to learn about future competitions being planned for DiscoverHover members. "Later this year we'll have opportunities to race other schools in our region, but international racing will be a cool thing to do. It will really show how well the program worked for Wantirna College!"

True to their pioneer spirit, the Wantirna group constructed their DiscoverHover One with a removable thrust duct so it can be easily transported when "we get the chance to go overseas and compete in international events."

In the meantime, as Robert Forbes and the Wantirna College Technology Club build their second DiscoverHover One, they are eager to share their experiences and offer advice or assistance to other DiscoverHover schools, or to anyone considering the program. Forbes may be contacted at FRB@wantirnacollege.vic.edu.au.

All Material © 2003-2004 World Hovercraft Organization