Let’s cure the inevitable “Winter blahs” with some physics fun. This air-powered hovercraft applies the physics principle of friction, but to young eyes it will seem like the balloon is seemingly levitating on top of the table! 

Just a few supplies from around the house make this an easy go-to for some STEM-powered winter fun. 

For this project, you will need:

  • An old CD or DVD
  • One balloon
  • The pop top from a water bottle
  • Hot Glue gun or Crazy Glue (grown-ups only)
  • Tape
  • A pin or needle

Tabletop Hovercraft Supplies

(An amusing sidebar to this experiment was the conversation of “what is a CD?” In our digital world, the younger generation might not be familiar with compact discs. Take the time to talk about how Mom and Dad listened to music and watched movies off of compact discs when they were growing up. Little minds might be blown over how all that recorded information now fits into the TV or tablet!)

Tabletop Hovercraft Discs

First, take a small piece of tape and cover the hole of the CD. Using your pin, poke about six or seven holes in the tape. This will simply slow down the airflow so you hovercraft can float around longer.

Tabletop Hovercraft Discs Taped

Tabletop Hovercraft Discs Close Up 1

Tabletop Hovercraft Discs Close Up 2

Next, using the hot glue gun or Crazy Glue (again, grown-ups only!), round the pop top with glue then adhere it over the opening of the CD. You don’t want any air able to escape, so perhaps give the outside of the pop top another ring of glue.

Tabletop Hovercraft Glue

Tabletop Hovercraft Secured

Blow up the balloon big and hold the end of it tight. Do not tie it!

Tabletop Hovercraft with disc

With the pop top in the closed position, place the balloon over the pop top. Because there is no air flow, the balloon will stay put until the moment you snap the pop top open.

Tabletop Hovercraft with disc

Open the pop top and watch as your homemade hovercraft floats across the table!

How does this happen? The air flow from the deflating balloon causes a cushion of moving air between the CD and the top of the table, otherwise known as friction. Once the air flow runs out the movement will stop. So long is there is a surface for the air flow to push against, this hovercraft will work anywhere!

Here’s to a winter filled with physics fun!

Tabletop Hovercraft Deflated

Save it for later!