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Build a Better Hovercraft, Build a Better Engineer

Hovercraft Competition to Take Place at Clark School, May 10

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Melissa Corley
301 405 6501

Students, faculty and staff watch a team launch its hovercraft at the start of the competition track in the Kim Engineering Building. Around the track, other teams await their turns. (Photo by Aaron Clamage, A. James Clark School of Engineering, U-Md.) Download the hi-res version

WHAT: Undergraduate student teams will launch their hand-built, autonomous hovercraft to navigate around a track. The competition caps ENES100, the Clark School's signature course that all engineering students must take in their freshman year. The two-foot hovercraft are constructed of foam, batteries, an Arduino UNO microcontroller, fans, sensors and other components. They must float on a cushion of air, propel themselves forward, activate a switch to turn off a large fan whose gusts would disrupt the hovercrafts' motion, and autonomously navigate four turns in the shortest amount of time to win the final design competition.

WHO: Freshmen engineering students compete in teams. They will be joined by faculty members of the Keystone Program, which administers the course and competition. Keystone faculty members are among the best teachers in the Clark School and are hand-selected for this course. Teaching fellows--undergraduate students who have already taken the course and are interested in developing leadership skills--also will be on-hand.

WHEN: Media are encouraged to attend Tuesday, May 10, starting at 9 a.m. (the competition will last most of the day). Students will be working on their hovercraft, testing and competing the entire time.

WHERE: The rotunda of the Jeong H. Kim Engineering Building
A. James Clark School of Engineering
University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742

WHY: Hands-on challenges are important in order to interest and motivate students to study engineering and the other STEM disciplines. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Through this class, students also learn interpersonal skills, problem-solving strategies, confidence and other qualities that will help them throughout the rest of their time as students and as engineers once they graduate. Many students consider this course to be one of their best educational experiences at the Clark School.

NOTE: Read about the ENES100 course, the hovercraft competition and the Keystone Program in Engineering@Maryland magazine, which is available online.

Watch a live stream from the competition on 5/10 on the Keystone Program homepage.