*Note: This is an abbreviated Project Idea, without notes to start your background research, a specific list of materials, or a procedure for how to do the experiment. You can identify abbreviated Project Ideas by the asterisk at the end of the title. If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk.
You can make a very simple hovercraft with a stiff, disposable plate—a pie plate should work well—and a balloon. Glue a square of cardboard in the center of the bottom of the plate. Make a small hole through the center of both of these layers. Enlarge the hole slightly with a pencil. Push a balloon through the hole so that the opening is on the front side of the plate, and rest of the balloon sticks out from the back. Blow up the balloon, then set the plate down (balloon side up). What happens? Add weight (using clay or pennies) symmetrically around the edge of the plate to measure amount of lift force. Can you control the direction of motion by making an outlet in the edge of the plate? (Parker, 2005, 14–15) Can you see any effect of changing the hole diameter? (This may be hard to measure.) You can also research and build more elaborate types of hovercraft using battery-powered fans for lift.
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If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers:
Humans have always longed to fly and to make other things fly, both through the air and into outer space—aerospace engineers are the people that make those dreams come true. They design, build, and test vehicles like airplanes, helicopters, balloons, rockets, missiles, satellites, and spacecraft.
Mechanical engineers are part of your everyday life, designing the spoon you used to eat your breakfast, your breakfast's packaging, the flip-top cap on your toothpaste tube, the zipper on your jacket, the car, bike, or bus you took to school, the chair you sat in, the door handle you grasped and the hinges it opened on, and the ballpoint pen you used to take your test. Virtually every object that you see around you has passed through the hands of a mechanical engineer. Consequently, their skills are in demand to design millions of different products in almost every type of industry.
Cars are an important part of our daily lives. We depend on them to perform everyday tasks—getting to and from school and work, sports practice, grocery shopping, and various errands—and also to keep us safe while doing so. Our cars can keep us cool or warm while we drive them, and they even help us find our way. The automobile is made up of complicated braking, steering, and electrical systems, in addition to the engine and drive train. All of these systems require a tremendous amount of engineering, which is the responsibility of automotive engineers. They develop the components and systems that make our vehicles efficient and safe.
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