What can you make with a paper plate, a straw, a balloon, and some tape? A Hovercraft! A hovercraft is a flying machine that uses a huge amount of downward force to create an air cushion that makes the hovercraft levitate just above the ground. This air cushion allows the hovercraft to travel over many types of surfaces.

Today we’re going to make our own hovercraft. This is a great exercise in engineering and problem-solving. You can find everything you need to be successful below.

You will need:
  • 1 balloon
  • 1 paper plate
  • 1 plastic straw
  • tape
  • scissors
How to:

top side of paper plate hover craft

  1.  Take the paper plate and make a small hole in the middle that is just big enough for your straw to fit through. You can use your scissors to accomplish this.
  2. Use your scissors and cut off a roughly 3-inch section of your plastic straw. Place that piece of the straw in the hole of the paper plate, with 2/3 of the straw sticking out the backside of the paper plate. Use your tape to fix the straw to the paper plate.
  3. Place the balloon over the long end of the straw and use your tape to fix the balloon to the straw and backsidebottom side of paper plate hovercraft of the paper plate. Try to make sure there is nowhere for air to escape besides out of the straw.
  4. Inflate the balloon by blowing air into the exposed end of the straw that is coming out of the front side of the plate.
  5. Pinch the base of the balloon so no air escapes, place hovercraft on a table and release the balloon and let it rip!

The hovercraft should lift off the table a bit as the air is being released. If it is not working, do some troubleshooting, you may be losing air pressure from a leak somewhere.

You can find step-by-step instructions with pictures here.

Download the companion worksheet here!

Looking for more STEM activities? Our Everyday STEM page has a bunch of great ideas.