Ellicott Mills Middle School
Soaring to New Heights
Robert Hodge, Technology Education instructor at
Ellicott Mills Middle School in Ellicott City, Maryland,
is giving new meaning to the school's motto, Soaring
to New Heights. Using the DiscoverHover program,
the 6th, 7th and 8th grade students in Mr. Hodge's
Tech Club are building their first hovercraft.
His students are soaring to new heights in both excitement
and eagerness to learn. "I've been teaching for
thirty years, and I cannot remember this level of
excitement in any other project I've done with students.
Every day it's, What are we gonna do, what's next,
The hands-on learning experience, Hodge believes,
is the most valuable aspect for his students. "It
brings to life the math and science they're learning
in their other classes, and it excites them about
education. Math and science become something the students
are eager to learn and understand so they can apply
that knowledge to building the hovercraft."
The Tech Club's current hovercraft was started with
plans already purchased elsewhere, then Mr. Hodge
learned of the DiscoverHover program from David Allabastro,
an Electronics Engineering instructor at Southern
Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois.
"Dr. Allabastro told me he got into hovercraft
around 1996, has built several of them and it's been
a wonderful experience for his school," says
Hodge. "Then he told me about the Curriculum
Guides on the DiscoverHover web site; that's one
of the main reasons I first went to the site. From
there I saw everything else, and thought, wow –
this is cool!"
Dr. Allabastro instituted hovercraft construction
projects at Southern Illinois University because he
was, "looking for something we could take to
high schools in our area that would get students excited
about science. We started building radio-controlled
models, then the DiscoverHover
One. Now we have 4 high schools building
Even though Ellicott Mills Middle School started
building their current hovercraft before Hodge found
out about DiscoverHover, he plans " to use the
free plans I downloaded from DiscoverHover for our
next one. This year's hovercraft is an after school
Club activity, but I'm going to incorporate the DiscoverHover
program into the actual curriculum next year so it
will be a part of what I teach every day."
Hodge and his students are eagerly anticipating the
announcement of DiscoverHover endurance racing events.
He says, "The hovercraft we're building right
now is not up to competitions" but believes next
One will be.
After the current hovercraft is finished, he plans
to sell it to raise funds for the materials for next
year's craft, about which he says, "I want to
keep my hands on the next one for a couple of years
to use for recruitment into my program, to get publicity
for Technology Education as well as for the school
Hodge says the most difficult aspect of the hovercraft
project is trying to involve so many interested students:
"I may need to build two hovercraft next time!"