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Brain power in motion

By David Talley | Published Wednesday, May 17, 2017
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Science in Motion

SCIENCE IN MOTION – Boyd Middle School student Mycaila Loya uses a small leaf blower to steer a hovercraft built by the school’s gifted and talented students down the hallway. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The law of inertia states that: “An object in motion will remain in motion unless acted on by an outside force.” The law apparently holds true if that object is a plastic chair attached to a student-built hovercraft cruising the halls of Boyd Middle School.

“So this thing is going really fast,” said student Ethan Wilson. “[A student] stuck his foot out in front of it, and the chair flew off and kept going. An object in motion stays in motion until acted on by an outside force. That was his foot. And the chair was the object. It just kept going.”

Seventh and eighth grade students in the school’s gifted and talented program built the hovercraft over the course of two months in science teacher Kelsey Clifton’s classroom, using materials provided by the school.

“[Principal James] McDonald and I talked about creating a hovercraft because he saw someone with it,” Clifton said. “I was like, ‘well, I’ll order the supplies,’ so I got with the students and ordered what they thought they needed.”

That student-led initiative stuck around for the duration of the project, Clifton said. Wilson agreed.

“She didn’t help us at all,” he joked.

Student Melanie Byrd compared the build to following a recipe.

“We had some guidelines to go off of, but then we would just add stuff ourselves,” she said, “because Mycaila [Loya] had the idea of making it look like a UFO, so we turned our hovercraft into a UFO.”

The finished product was painted flashy, space-worthy silver with pool noodle bumpers for high-speed protection. Byrd said the hovercraft’s other components include plywood, tarp material, staples, a chair and “a whole bunch of duct tape.”

Clifton said tapping the group’s creative impulses to include things like bumpers and the UFO-theme was the whole point of the project.

“It’s not really a science, even though I’m their science teacher,” she said. “This is the gifted and talented group of our school. I just wanted them to have to use their brains and work on something. And so that’s just why I kind of let them go. I wanted them to just use their imagination and go with it.”

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