Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Gulf Coast Academy eight-graders' hovercraft wins Wow! Award

SPRING HILL — A solar-powered hovercraft created by six Gulf Coast Academy of Science and Mathematics eighth-graders took home the top honors — the Wow! Award — at a recent science competition.

The invention was the star of the Florida Solar Energy Center's 2011 Energy Innovations Energy Whiz Olympics event held May 7 in Cocoa Beach.

Dakota Halley, 14, Elijah Medina, 14, Ankit Kumar, 13, Arjun and Bharat Malhotra, both 14, and Jonathan DeBellow, 14, took plywood, heavy duty vinyl, two cordless leaf blowers, a solar panel and an inverter, to make the hovercraft.

It is strong enough to hold a man and can remain elevated as long as the leaf blowers retain their electric charges.

The panels were provided to the students. "Florida Solar Energy Center provides interested school with two 80-watt solar panels contingent upon continuing participation in energy projects," said Joseph Gatti, Gulf Coast's director of curriculum and instruction.

The plywood was cut into a 4-foot diameter circle and the vinyl was attached to the underside. The leaf blowers' batteries were attached to the panel with the inverter and the nozzles of the blowers pointed through holes in the wood that were then sealed around them.

When turned on, air filled the pocket between the wood and the vinyl. The vinyl was punctured with eight small holes through which the air escaped downward under pressure, elevating the hover craft.

To move around, the boys explained, the person riding it stepped down with one foot, like on a skateboard. "The main focus was to get it off the ground," Arjun said.

The Wow! Award was the overall award for best exhibit for middle and high schools, but, Arjun explained, there was more to it than just building the craft. They had to market it and sell the judges on it.

The boys made an infomercial that included a simulated tour of the construction of their project.

"Then we made a fully functional website," said Dakota. It could be entered through a school computer for the judges to see.

The team brought home two trophies, one for the overall Wow! Award and the other for first place at the middle school level. They got ribbons and certificates.

Another GCA team also traveled to the event. The students entered their solar-powered swamp cooler, a machine that cools with water mist. That team was Steven Ciaccio, Noah Pollock, Nikki Reed and Gordon Appleton.

At the sixth-grade level, Ryan Leach and Bradley Schultz entered a small solar-powered car in the 2011 Junior Solar Sprint. They placed second in sixth-grade race results.

The students were accompanied to the event by science teacher Shawn Walker and field activity program teacher Melissa Rawlerson.

Gulf Coast Academy eight-graders' hovercraft wins Wow! Award 05/25/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 3:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. North Korea says it's 'biggest victim' in U.S. student's death (w/video)


    SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Friday called itself the "biggest victim" in the death of an American student who was detained for more than a year and died days after being released in a coma.

    Mourners line the street after the funeral of Otto Warmbier, Thursday, June 22, 2017, in Wyoming, Ohio. Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia undergraduate student who was sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years in prison with hard labor in North Korea, died this week, days after returning to the United States. [Associated Press]
  2. Kentucky recruit, former Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox among top prospects for 2018 NBA Draft


    Less than 24 hours after the NBA Draft, analysts have already begun looking ahead to 2018.

    Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox finishes a layup during the McDonald's All-American game in March at the United Center in Chicago. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  3. Editorial: Pinellas cannot ignore homeless families


    They are living on our streets and in our parking lots, in cheap motels and spare bedrooms if they're lucky and in old cars if they are not. Their kids attend our schools, and parents often are afraid to seek help. Pinellas County has made progress in recent years in providing temporary shelter for the homeless, but …

Ariana Turner, 22, and her daughter, Namine Cowell, 2, are living at St. Petersburg Free Clinic Family Residence after falling on hard times. Pinellas County has made progress in recent years in providing temporary shelter for the homeless, but homeless families with kids are virtually shut out. It's a crisis that requires public and private leadership to find an answer that is both compassionate and cost-effective.
  4. Report: USF faculty complained of a hostile, sexist, boorish boss


    TAMPA — A certain University of South Florida academic may be an unpopular and insensitive bully, but he did not break USF rules, a lengthy legal review has concluded.

    Herb Maschner was removed last fall as the head of a technology center at the University of South Florida after the school learned his previous employer found he engaged in inappropriate, on-campus sexual behavior. A new report looks at Maschner's tenure at USF. [Idaho State University]
  5. Oh, deer! Two bucks seen on video duking it out in Tennessee


    Deer generally are seen as calm and serene creatures, but that was not the case in this video posted Wednesday on the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency's Facebook page.

    A video, shot by Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency wildlife officers Amy and Bubba Spencer on one of their trail cameras, shows two bucks on their hind legs and flailing in an open field. [Facebook]