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After spending a couple of weeks researching the construction and physics behind hovercrafts, East Middle School student Jessica Alcantara was rewarded for her study of those flying machines by getting to take a ride in one.
Kathie Wrightson, EMS Talented and Gifted teacher, said she invited local hovercraft enthusiast John Mills to bring his homemade hovercraft to EMS on Thursday as a reward for her students' hard work in class.
For the past several weeks the students had been participating in a classroom competition sponsored by NASA that challenged students to identify and research alternative forms of transportation.
Out of all the projects turned in, Wrightson said Alcantara's project on hovercrafts was selected as the best in the class. Her work earned Alcantara the first ride in the hovercraft.
After Mills gave the students a brief lecture on the principles of physics that cause the hovercraft to stay afloat, he took Alcantara on a ride.
Floating about 10-and-a-half inches off the ground, Mills took Alcantara on a jaunt in the field beside EMS for about 5 minutes.
She was only a handful of students who got to ride in the craft.
Mills told the students that the machine can reach up to 35 miles per hour and can drive on most any smooth surface - including water. Mills constructed the hovercraft from a design that he bought on the Internet. The frame of the craft is a normal boat. A powerful fan creates a pillow of air between the skirt on the bottom of boat and the ground, keeping the craft afloat. Another fan pushes the craft forward.
After finishing her ride in the hovercraft, Alcantara had a beaming smile.
"Wow that was really cool."