A kitty themed hovercraft with LED lights for my daughter's science fair project.
Materials & Tools
- 4x4 feet 3/8" thick plywood sheet
- 6 mil plastic sheeting
- Leaf blower (battery or electric)
- Staple gun
- Drill and screws
- Sand paper
- Duct tape (recommend Gorilla duct tape)
- LED strips - optional
- Kitty picture decorations - optional
There are many good hovercraft tutorials on Instructables. I found this one to be very helpful and used the same design.
Many of the hovercraft tutorials on Instructables use an electric leaf blower with a cord. We wanted the freedom of cordless so went with a battery powered leaf blower. I was a little worried it wouldn't have enough power but I found it to be just fine and was able to support an 11 year old and an 185 pound Dad. The Ryobi leaf blower we used has pretty crappy battery life and only lasts ~10 minutes of continuous use so beware of that. The model we used though does have the ability to also switch to a powered cord which came in handy for this project.
Step 1: Cutting the Circle and Leaf Blower Opening
Use a pencil with a piece of string 2 feet in length (the radius) and draw a circle with a 2 foot radius and cut the circle with a jigsaw.
You'll have some excess plywood on the corners, enough to cut out a small circle with a radius of 3.5 inches for the center circle piece on the bottom.
Also cut out the opening for the leaf blower, I placed my opening 10 inches from the edge.
It's a good idea to thoroughly sand to remove splinters.
Step 2: Painting - Optional
We painted the bottom green and the top white.
Step 3: Add the Kitty Art
We used Mod Podge photo transfer solution to transfer the kitty pictures to the wood. Here is a very good tutorial on how this solution works on wood.
You cannot use ink jet printed pictures and must instead print your photos using a color laser printer or make a color copy on normal paper (non-glossy).
Place your pictures and then cover generously with the Mod Podge photo transfer solution and let sit for 24 hours.
After 24 hours, take a wet sponge and wipe off applying a good amount of pressure. The paper fibers will come off leaving the pictures now transferred to the wood. After doing a few of them, you'll get the hang of it.
Note that the image will be reversed so if you have text, you'll first need to edit your image and invert it before printing.
Step 4: LED Strip Lighting - Optional
I had an extra 16 foot spool of RGB LED strips lying around and used clear RTV silicone to attach the LED strips to the side of the wood. Temporarily taped the strips to keep things in place before the silicone dried.
I happend to have this LED strip controller lying around but you could use any controller of course and had I had more time, would have used an Arduino and programmed my own lighting scheme. This particular controller controls the LEDs based on a music input but it's really not a good use for this application because the leaf blower is very loud and you can't hear the music.
Step 5: The Skirt
Finally add the skirt for your hovercraft. We used 6 mil plastic sheathing readily available at your local home improvement store. There is a whole science behind hovercraft skirt design so we're not sure if this is the most optimal but will say it worked out just fine. We cut out a plastic sheath circle to cover the wood circle with an extra 8 inches and then attached it 5 inches in leaving about 3 inches slack. You don't want it to be super tight.
We used a staple gun to attach the skirt on the top and then covered with Gorilla duct tape making a nice tight seal. The tighter the seal, the better.
Attach the 3.5 inch radius circle piece from earlier to the center of the bottom using 4 screws. Remember it's a thin board so make sure your screws are the right size and don't go all the way through.
Lastly, add some more duct tape around the center circle piece and then cut out 6 holes of 1 inch diameter with a utility knife. Having the duct tape with the 6 holes will prevent ripping.
That's it, fire up your leaf blower and enjoy!