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Story Details

Sekulich Designs Hoverboard

In the 1989 film, "Back to the Future II," Marty McFly shot forward to 2015 and saw people zipping around high above the ground on hoverboards.

Well, two years after 2015, in Mr. Aaron Sekulich's physics class, students have a chance to levitate on a cushion of air, thanks to his homemade hoverboard.

Sekulich designed the device about seven years ago. He built it with the intention of using it to teach physics principles. It cost him about $400 for a leaf blower, which is mounted on a flat board. That's right. A leaf blower!

The leaf blower can generate hurricane speed winds of about 150 mph under the board. Sekulich said it's a simple matter of the air pressure pushing down and the ground pushing back. "Equilibrium in the vertical direction," as he put it.

"Basically the leaf blower is pumping high-speed air down underneath the board," he said. "There's a baffle built underneath and it has some holes where air is forced to come out in a circular fashion. The high-pressure air creates a cushion that this thing floats on and it acts like an air hockey puck in reverse."

Sekulich gave several students in his class a chance to ride the hoverboard on the tennis court. He had to give each a push or two, or three, to propel the board. The noise was deafening but the rides were sweet.

One student said it was unlike anything she'd ever experienced. "As someone who has been going to La Pietra since sixth grade it was always my dream to ride the hoverboard that our physics teacher built," said senior Lanihuli Gilbert. "Feeling weightlessness was amazing!"

There was no way to calculate the incredibly thin margin of air under the board. But any skeptic could easily be convinced it was really a hoverboard simply by observing it.

"One of the benefits (of the hoverboard) is that we can minimize friction when we are doing physics demos," said Sekulich.

"It's a good demonstration of inertia. You get this thing moving and it just keeps on going. "It's also a good demonstration of Newton's Second Law: Force equals mass times acceleration. If I'm pushing it with a steady force it's accelerating. Soon as I let go it's traveling at a constant speed."

Sekulich plans on keeping his homemade hoverboard around. It's proven to be an exciting and effective hands-on teaching method for students.
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