They asked if we could create something similar for our students to learn about friction, force and energy; it was a great little project!
The core of the problem was in the controllers. Students needed to manage the fans attached to the hovercraft.
The controllers needed to be simple and cost effective, yet robust enough that they could be useable for five years or so.
I designed the basic circuit on circuits.io – it is built by Autodesk and allows a great number of circuits to be made; it is particularly strong in basic Arduino circuitry.
One feature allows Gerber files to be exported so they can be manufactured as complete or prototype Printed Circuits Boards (PCBs).
After creating these, they were sent online to a manufacturer in China, who made them and shipped them back, arriving in just under 10 days.
The electronics all came from Jaycar, and included some 5k potentiometers, a couple of diodes, an LED and a six pin jumper, to connect the motors.
Motors and props came from small Cheerson drones, purchased from Rise Above Drones. A little wire and we were in business!
Finally, we needed a case. Fusin360 is currently the best 3D design application, which is free for education use. It’s worth its weight in gold – such a brilliant application for all 3D work.
It might take a little while to learn, but it’s worth it! Once all the parts arrived, and we printed the case, it was time to put it together.
We decided it was best to create only one controller, so we could get students to build the rest.
The entire process was documented and a tutorial created for students to follow.
The components were pressed into the PCB and soldered into place. I had built a small prototype hovercraft in the testing phase, so this was used to test the circuit and see how useable the finished product would be.
The prototype was a massive success! It created a perfect amount of lift and enabled left and right control.
It will be interesting to see how students will determine the best size of craft, cushion and prop position for each element, and how they build the controllers.
Very soon, all designs and instructions will be released to the public domain under an MIT licence, so you’re free to download, modify and use.
Hopefully, more students can learn a little about electronics and build their own versions. I would be really interested in hearing of improvements made to the designs.