What runs in a race, blows hard, and never touches the ground?

by Kathleen McCoy  |   

Answer: 15 teams of engineering students competing with homemade hovercraft, each powered by a leaf blower.

This morning at the UAA Wells Fargo Sports Complex, there will occur one of the strangest contests ever seen this side of Fur Rendezvous: 15 student teams will each enter a team-designed hovercraft in a competition to see which craft can carry the most weight.

The course, on the Sport Complex running track, is 25 feet long and eight feet wide. Each hovercraft has been limited to no more than 16 square feet in area and must achieve at least 2 inches of lift for the full 25 feet without any human assistance.

Common to every homemade hovercraft is a Visqueen skirt and a leaf blower. The key, said Professor Anthony J. Paris, the students' instructor, is in the skirt design. One team, said Paris, already is bragging its hovercraft can carry 1,350 pounds. The 15 projects and contest are sponsored by USHovercraft of Anchorage, which is providing the Visqueen and other supplies and is paying the prizes -- $300 for first place and $150 for second, as well as a Judges Award of an hour's hovercraft tour of Cook Inlet.

What: Hovercraft Design Competition for Engineering Practices III students
Where: Running track at the UAA Wells Fargo Sports Complex.
When: 7:30 to 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 7.

More info: Professor Anthony J. Paris, 786-1912 or afajp@uaa.alaska.com.

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