Hovercraft Racers!

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Learners build a simple hovercraft using air from a balloon to levitate a craft made from a compact disc (CD). They learn that a bed of air under an object significantly reduces the friction as it slides over a surface. This activity can be combined with other activities to create a larger lesson. Resource contains suggestions for assessment, extensions, and scaling for different levels of learners.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • 1 compact disc (CD) (Ask learners to bring from home used CDs from old software or free trial CDs.)
  • 1 plastic bottle with a cap (such as a Coke bottle, ~16 oz. size)
  • 1 balloon
  • hacksaw (to cut the top off the plastic bottle)
  • drill (to put holes in the bottle cap)
  • hot-glue gun (to be shared among groups)


  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Heavner, Ben ; Schaefer Zarske, Malinda ; Carlson, Denise

Source Collection

  • TeachEngineering


  • All rights reserved, Regents of the University of Colorado, 2004

Funding Sources:

  • Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE)
  • U.S. Department of Education
  • National Science Foundation, 0226322