Hovercraft Challenge


Rippl3D’s Hovercraft Challenge enables players to 3D print thrusters to add a new level of fun to the balloon & CD Hovercraft experiment. Players design thrusters that control where the supply air (balloon) is directed and how fast it is released. These simple parameters offer a surprising number of  teaching opportunities. The challenge can be played on any smooth surface (tables, hallways, gym floors). This challenge is fast paced and always good for laughs.

Relevant STEM Principles

Forces, thrust, air pressure, lift, and stability


Using a stopwatch, record the time it takes the hovercraft to traverse a given distance.

Challenge Components

The hovercraft is build from the following components

  1. BalloonHC Parts Defined
  2. CD
  3. 3D Printed Parts
    1. Balloon Support
    2. Balloon End
    3. CD Base

The Control Cylinder is designed and built uniquely for each attempt! Each player will design these solutions in the web app.

Design Parameters

The Control Cylinder has 4 parameters that can be adjusted to change performance.

  1. Base Port diameter (Lift/Hover Control)HC Control Cylinder Parameters
  2. Width of Triangle (Thrust Port)
  3. Number of Triangles (Stability & Thrust Control)
  4. Angle of Triangles (Stability Control)

Design Considerations

  • Hover/Lift
    • Increasing Base Port dia. increases lift
    • Increasing lift reduces how much thrust can be generated
  • Thrust
    • Increasing Triangle Width and No. of Triangles will increase thrust
    • Increasing thrust reduces amount of lift available
    • Minimizing  rotation angles will maximize thrust
  • Stability
    • A stable Hovercraft will travel down a path with less influence from outside forces
    • More triangles increase stability
    • Increasing rotation angle can increase stability

HC Forces Diagram

How To Play
  1. Login to Rippl3D Challenge site
    1. Select the Competition for your event
    2. Enter the parameters you think will provide the best performance
      1. Base Port diameter (Lift/Hover Control)
      2. Width of Triangle (Thrust Port)
      3. Number of Triangles (Stability & Thrust Control)
      4. Angle of Triangles (Stability Control)
    3. Save the design and record the Job Number on a Job Sheet
      1. The job sheet will provide a good way to track your 3D printed part
    4. Download the STL file
  2. 3D print STL file
  3. Assemble parts
  4. Test the Hovercraft and record your score on the Job Sheet
  5. The Competition Coordinator will enter the score for your job number
  6. Review the results and try again to improve your score