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  Featured Schools :: Ellicott Mills Middle School ::

Ellicott Mills Middle School
Soaring to New Heights

Robert Hodge, Technology Education instructor at Ellicott Mills Middle School in Ellicott City, Maryland, is giving new meaning to the school's motto, Soaring to New Heights. Using the DiscoverHover program, the 6th, 7th and 8th grade students in Mr. Hodge's Tech Club are building their first hovercraft.

His students are soaring to new heights in both excitement and eagerness to learn. "I've been teaching for thirty years, and I cannot remember this level of excitement in any other project I've done with students. Every day it's, What are we gonna do, what's next, what's next?"

The hands-on learning experience, Hodge believes, is the most valuable aspect for his students. "It brings to life the math and science they're learning in their other classes, and it excites them about education. Math and science become something the students are eager to learn and understand so they can apply that knowledge to building the hovercraft."

The Tech Club's current hovercraft was started with plans already purchased elsewhere, then Mr. Hodge learned of the DiscoverHover program from David Allabastro, an Electronics Engineering instructor at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois.

"Dr. Allabastro told me he got into hovercraft around 1996, has built several of them and it's been a wonderful experience for his school," says Hodge. "Then he told me about the Curriculum Guides on the DiscoverHover web site; that's one of the main reasons I first went to the site. From there I saw everything else, and thought, wow – this is cool!"

Dr. Allabastro instituted hovercraft construction projects at Southern Illinois University because he was, "looking for something we could take to high schools in our area that would get students excited about science. We started building radio-controlled models, then the DiscoverHover One. Now we have 4 high schools building DiscoverHover Ones.”

Even though Ellicott Mills Middle School started building their current hovercraft before Hodge found out about DiscoverHover, he plans " to use the free plans I downloaded from DiscoverHover for our next one. This year's hovercraft is an after school Club activity, but I'm going to incorporate the DiscoverHover program into the actual curriculum next year so it will be a part of what I teach every day."

Hodge and his students are eagerly anticipating the announcement of DiscoverHover endurance racing events. He says, "The hovercraft we're building right now is not up to competitions" but believes next year's DiscoverHover One will be.

After the current hovercraft is finished, he plans to sell it to raise funds for the materials for next year's craft, about which he says, "I want to keep my hands on the next one for a couple of years to use for recruitment into my program, to get publicity for Technology Education as well as for the school itself."

Hodge says the most difficult aspect of the hovercraft project is trying to involve so many interested students: "I may need to build two hovercraft next time!"

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