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Kids take turns riding in child-sized hovercraft

20 Aug. 2002

By Peter Ciancone

Michael Barrett said it was like floating.

The 11-year-old who attends Rio Grande Elementary School was among the first to ride on the newest exhibit at the Children's Science and Technology Museum of Terre Haute: a child-sized hovercraft.

The exhibit is presented in conjunction with World Hovercraft Week 2002, coming to Terre Haute Sept. 15-22.

Museum director Jerry Mansfield said that in addition to the hovercraft -- made of plywood, Plexiglas, a synthetic material used to make air bags and an electric leaf blower -- the museum would post displays showing the history of hovercraft technology and the concept behind it.

"They can even put their hands down while they ride and feel the air," he said.

The simple craft is powerful enough for adults to feel the ride on a cushion of air.

Chris Fitzgerald, chairman of the upcoming hovercraft event and president of Neoteric Hovercraft, a Terre Haute company that builds and sells the unique craft all over the world, said the display was a way to introduce children to the technology, to teach them a bit about the physics of the craft, and to interest them in the upcoming event.

"It's probably one of the few chances in your lifetime you'll have a chance to see this," he said, of World Hovercraft Week. It will include land and water hovercraft racing, and an additional learning experience for older students.

James C. Wallace II will supervise a group of students from Terre Haute North Vigo and South Vigo high schools, West Vigo High School and Northview High School in building a hovercraft.

"At the conclusion of four days, we'll have a working hovercraft," he said.

Rachael Manning, 5, floated in the craft, looking down through her feet to see what it was she was floating on. She rode for a minute, pronounced it fun, and dashed off to another part of the museum to test the displays.

The Children's Museum, located at 523 Wabash Ave., is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

All Material © 2003-2004 World Hovercraft Organization