For Educators

Hover Cup
0.0/5 rating (0 votes)

Learn About

force | friction | work

Materials Needed

Paper cup, lightweight cardboard (a file folder), glue, balloon, masking tape, thick marker or pen


1. Cut a 4-inch square out of the cardboard. Cut the four corners to make an octagon.

2. Draw a ¼-½" diameter circle in the center of the cardboard. Use a pen to score the edge of the circle and punch it out. (A Crayola® marker has a perfect diameter.)

3. Glue the octagonal cardboard piece to the open end of the cup. Glue it securely to form an airtight seal between the cardboard and the cup. Let the glue dry.

4. Make a cardboard tube: cut another cardboard piece into a rectangle (approx. 3½" x 2"). Roll this piece to form a 3½"x¼" diameter tube. Use masking tape to tightly seal the entire length of the seam.

5. Punch a hole in the bottom of the cup large enough for the cardboard tube to fit snuggly (as airtight as possible).

6. Insert the tube into the opening of the balloon. Tape the balloon 1" from the end of the tube. Make sure the seal made with the tape is airtight.

7. Blow up the balloon (through the tube) and twist or pinch off the end to keep the air from escaping. Place the open end of the tube into the hole in the cup's bottom.

8. Set the hovercraft on a level, smooth surface. Release the air from the balloon so that it flows into the tube.

9. Blow the balloon up again, release and this time gently push your hovercraft.


Further Exploration! Can you modify the base (cardboard octagon piece) so that it "steers" the hovercraft in a specific direction? What are some uses for hovercrafts? Are there other types of machines that use compressed air to do work?

What's Going On

A Hovercraft or Air Cushion Vehicle (ACV) is a craft that travels on a layer of compressed air just above any kind of surface--land or water. The compressed air serves as a cushion that eliminates almost all friction between the vehicle and the surface. With your hovercraft, the air flowing from the balloon through the holes forms that layer of air between the hovercraft and the table, reducing friction. With less friction, your hovercraft glides smoothly across the table.

Ohio Content Standards

Physical Science: 1.5, 1.6, 3.3, 3.4, 8.3, 9.21, 9.25
OSIC Codes: Y2002.CSC.S03.GKG-02.BB.L01.I05; Y2002.CSC.S03.GKG-02.BB.L01.I06; Y2002.CSC.S03.G03-05.BC.L03.I03; Y2002.CSC.S03.G03-05.BC.L03.I04; Y2002.CSC.S03.G06-08.BB.L08.I03; Y2002.CSC.S03.G06-08.BB.L08.I03; Y2002.CSC.S03.G09-10.BD.L09.I21; Y2002.CSC.S03.G09-10.BD.L09.I25
  • Added: November 29, 2011
  • Hits: 11904

Top Classroom Activities

  • Buoyant Bubble

    A sphere is a very special shape in nature. Liquids form into spheres due to internal forces. Investigate density and shape.
    Buoyant Bubble
  • Cabbage Patch Chemistry

    An indicator is a substance that can be used to determine pH of a substance. Make your own indicator using red cabbage leaves and test household items.
    Cabbage Patch Chemistry
  • What's the Buzz?

    Can a rubber band sound like a bee? How does changing the speed of a vibrating object affect the sound of the vibration?
    What's the Buzz?
  • Hover Cup

    Can you make a hovercraft from a paper cup? Explore how air flow can minimize friction and cause an object to move.
    Hover Cup
  • Catapult

    Catapults are great for demonstrating transfer of energy. Tension in the catapult will cause an object to travel very far.
  • Sidewalk Chalk

    Chalk is used in many applications and industries... more familiarly in the classroom. Make your own chalk and learn the science behind this incredible product.
    Sidewalk Chalk
  • Rock Candy

    Create a crystal pattern around a string that is also a tasty treat!

    Rock Candy