This is part of a series of Instructables intended for teachers about educating students in the classroom around making and tinkering. For more about the details of this project, check out our blog.

CD balloon hovercrafts are a tried and true instructional tool in the classroom for teaching the concepts of friction, air flow, momentum and a host of other physics concepts. There are a lot of other Instructables out there with different methods, like this great one from The Children's Museum of Houston. Use whatever method or materials suit your needs best.

These devices float rather well on any smooth surface, and depending on what size balloon you use and how much air you allow to escape, can work for several minutes at a time. They are quick to make for almost any age. We've added a design challenge component to the facilitation of this activity to both make the device work better and challenge the participants to add their own ideas to the activity. Building a Better Hovercraft is a great way to explain it. Traditional ones get some drag when the balloon deflates enough to tip over - how can we creatively solve this issue to make the hovercrafts travel further and faster? Read on to find out!

Step 1: Materials and Tools Needed

We do ours with film canisters and CDs, both items that used to be readily available and either free or cheap. Alas, as the progress of technology marches on, both are becoming less prevalent in the world. You just can't pick up AOL CDs out of the street for this activity anymore! Fortunately, you can still find all of the necessary materials for this activity online and locally.

  • Film canister (a thread spool, cut piece of PVC pipe, sports drink nozzle, etc. also work well - most anything with a hole in it that will fit over the hole in the middle of the CD works fine). Most photo developing shops will give you their old ones for free, so check there first before buying online! I get mine in bulk on Amazon.
  • CD - any old used CD or DVD will work. You can also pick up packs of blank CDs at most electronics superstores. I grab mine on Amazon for large classes.
  • Balloon. I recommend a larger one (9" or even 12") as you can get a lot more flight out of them, and they are easier to stretch over the nozzle than the smaller varieties.
  • Hot glue gun and hot glue.
  • Large tack or small nail. I love these novelty size push pins for kids, as they have a large area to grip for safety and are not super sharp.
  • Pipe cleaners.
  • Craft sticks.
  • Paper and scissors. Markers are good for decorating, too.
  • Tape - I love masking tape for this activity.
  • Optional: For large groups of kids, I get these balloon pumps from Target or party store and put a piece of vinyl tubing over the tip so that it fits the hole in the CDs. It makes it MUCH easier to inflate the balloons over and over again without removing them or going breathless trying to blow them up through the bottom of the CD. Most party supply stores will also stock balloon pumps. I also designed a 3D printable piece made out of flexible filament that can fit over the tip of the pump to lock the CD in place - the file is attached below.
<p>It should be better with a Led Zep cd !</p>

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm the Museum Coordinator for the spectrUM Discovery Area, a hands-on science museum in Missoula, MT. I love to make, tinker and play both ... More »
More by 3DNicholos:CD and Balloon Hovercrafts Engineering Challenge Bouncy Rockets Ozobots in the Classroom 
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