Artisan’s Asylum Hovercraft Competition

Monica Gribouski | 27 Feb 2012 | | news

BUILDS recently participated in the Artisan’s Asylum Hovercraft Design Challenge, which took place from Friday January 27th at 7:30pm to Sunday January 29th at 7:30pm. Upon arrival, teams were given kits containing two brush motors, two servo motors, a radio receiver and transmitter, a hunk of foam, and a plywood plank. After getting a basic rundown on how not to kill themselves with the variety of equipment available at Artisan’s Asylum, the teams got to work.

BUILDS entered two teams: Team McFly, containing Chris Woodall, Ian Felder, Alejandro Bancalari, and Marc Beneck; and The Cult of the Devouring Fan, containing Patrick Erlicher, Rusty Shomberg, Alex Whittemore, and Billy Gulotta. For both teams, Friday night was devoted to planning. The Cult of the Devouring Fan knocked out their designs and left early due to other obligations while McFly stayed up late cutting out the basic outline of the hoverboard in foam. With a double-thick foam base, McFly’s craft was far larger than any of the other teams’.

Saturday morning the members of McFly purchased more supplies and spent the day working. By the end of the day they were the only team with a completely functioning hovercraft, and therefore left early.

The Cult of the Devouring Fan wasn’t faring so well.

“We had really grand designs,” says Patrick Erlicher of their process. Unfortunately, the complex plans to combine lift and steering into one smooth mechanism weren’t possible with their situation: at any one time, they only had one working motor due to burnout of the other, and team members had other commitments and kept dropping in and out. By Sunday morning they were in rough shape: still attempting to optimize their craft but with no real functionality, team member Alex Whittemore was forced to bring in another motor. Things continued to go downhill: a member of the Cult was shipped off to the hospital after an incident with misjudged depth perception and the main fan of their craft, and by 7pm, the race just half an hour away, the craft still didn’t have enough torque to maneuver correctly.

McFly, comparatively, were taking the day easy. Confident about their early working craft from the day before, they arrived late and spent the day decorating their hovercraft. When it came to race time, they were pitted against the other larger crafts. As the race began one team didn’t take off, but McFly and the other craft floated down the track. Approaching the finish, the other craft’s motors burnt out and it crashed, blocking the path for McFly to get through. While fighting their way around it, McFly’s engines burnt out and the race was a scratch. They were able to replace their motor for the second race and was the only craft to take off, but unfortunately burnt out before the finish line again.

Meanwhile, the Cult of the Devouring Fan, running off chicken wings and prayers, decided to completely re-vamp their design half an hour before the race. They changed their propulsion system to push rather than pull air, remounting the rudder, and only tested this new design in the hallway en route to race. The only two crafts to lift off were the Cult’s newly christened “Brogle the Insatiable”, named after the BUILDS president, and Artisan’s Asylum’s own Magic Smoke. The Asylum’s team had a clever cooling method: to keep the motor from burning out, they put the body of the motor in a soda can full of ice cubes. It was a close race in that both crafts were definitely going to finish (many crafts had trouble taking off), but due to Brogle’s speed and the maneuverability it gained from being able to bounce itself out of corners meant that the Cult of the Devouring Fan came in first.

All teams that competed won one month free membership at Artisan’s Asylum, and Brogle the Insatiable remains on display as the winning craft for the next year. BUILDS was extremely impressed with the hospitality and facilities of Artisan’s Asylum and hopes to both compete and work with them again in the future.

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Red Bull Flugtag


Red Bull Flugtag (German: flight day, airshow) is an event owned and operated by Red Bull in which competitors attempt to fly homemade human-powered flying machines. The flying machines are usually launched off a pier about 30 feet (9.1 m) high into the sea (or suitably sized reservoir of water). Most competitors enter for the entertainment value, and the flying machines rarely fly at all. (Stolen from Wikipedia!)


Flugtag San Francisco 2003

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Please submit your summer availability here:

Flugtag Meeting Minutes 04-21


(Add your name here)

  • John-Nicholas Furst (Project Leader)
  • David House (Project Leader)
  • Kyle Brogle (Project Leader)
  • Valerie Young (Project Leader)
  • Brian Hepler (Project Leader)
  • Chatham (Project Leader)
  • Samir Ahmed


Meeting Minutes for 2012-02-29


Kyle Brogle

  • So new officer elections will be held the week after spring break, so submit tickets!

John-Nicholas Furst / Dan Gastler

  • The door is back in gear so talk to John to get in the database for swipe access. If the door jams, text Dan Gastler (if you don’t have his number, ask him in person). If you want to hack on the door, talk to Dan or someone else on the project.

George Silvis

Just a short update on computers, they are set to sleep to save some power/ temperature/ etc.

Monica Gribouski

For multitouch: we have to spend some time coating the plexiglass (this weekend). Show up and help!

Dan Gastler

BUILDS portal project: potentially make more of them, or somehow standardize them, and get some sort of inter-hackerspace portal art going.

Allan Wirth

Lantunes is now more stable than ever! On the wiki there’s a good guide for how to hack/use lantunes.

George Silvis

If you’re interested in porting a VBA (virtual boy advance, gameboy (advance) emulator) to linux and mac OS, talk to monica, george or john.

Chris Woodall

BUILDS Bot! 12 Ounce now can follow lines, yielding a successful project. BUILDS bot is now one step closer to creating a Robot Overlord. The next meeting is tomorrow night (3/1/2012) at 8pm.

Allan Wirth

BUILDS coding bee is set to be held the weekend after break. We are still accepting language suggestions, so talk to George or Allan if you’re interested.

Chris Woodall

Stop by this sunday (at 4pm) to travel to Sprout at Davis Square to check out the BOSS lab (Boston Open Source Science Lab) (Map (Directions from 700 Commonwealth aka Warren Towers)