Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Tide, Tigers duel in hovercraft battle

The rivalry between Auburn University and The Univeristy of Alabama will be pushed to a new level next month as both schools take to the air in the first ever University Hover Challenge hovercraft competition, March 16 and 17 at Lake Lurleen in Tuscaloosa.

The UA hovercraft team expects more than 20 competitors from all corners of the country in the race, including a team from rival Auburn University. The challenge is sponsored by the Hoverclub of America.

Kent Gano, the racing director for Hoverclub of America, is also serving as director of the University Hover Challenge. Gano said he hopes to have other universities join in on the race and perhaps even expand the challenge at other universities in the future.

“I am hoping that each team participating will be competitive,” Gano said. “I am under the impression that both teams have a challenge ahead of them, with UA having a slight advantage since they have been doing this longer.”

Hisham Ali, the senior who started the project and the team leader, said he has high hopes for the race.

“By starting [The University Hover Challenge], especially between Alabama and Auburn, we hope to see more universities get involved in the future, with more coming from the region to this event,” Ali said.

The hovercraft team, which started as a senior project between five students, now boasts around 20 members who are working non-stop assembling the craft. The team has confidence that the hovercraft will be finished by the end of February, and they will then focus on making last-minute adjustments and learning to drive the craft. For now, however, they are still feeling the pressure as they await all of their parts to arrive, including their engine.

“I would consider the race a success for many reasons, regardless of how our craft performs because we are starting something at UA that has never been done before,” said Mark Wysock, a senior in charge of the systems integration and control team.

Wysock also praised Ali for building the foundation for underclassmen to keep the team going for years to come.

“Ali has done a tremendous job of getting underclassmen involved in the project with the hope that they will keep it going in the years to come. Nevertheless, our team is trying to design and build a craft that is going to win the race this year,” Wysock said.

Alabama’s team has also raised the bar on hovercraft construction. The team is using every resource available to them to make the craft as efficient as possible, which includes the use of some of the world’s newest technologies.

Among the resources, they have used a 3D printer to test the craft on a smaller scale, and are even using a Xbox Kinect sensor to scan the hovercraft and record its depth. They are also working to incorporate an Android tablet onto the hovercraft, allowing them to monitor different gauges, including speed.

“I am leading the Systems Integration and Controls team,” Wysock said. “We are currently creating a 3D model of the hovercraft and its associated systems in Solidworks. With the 3D model, we can make sure all the systems integrate before we actually start constructing the craft.”

Ali also emphasized the work they have put into turning the race site at Lake Lurleen into a real racing event.

Members of the team will learn the different racing signals associated with hovercraft racing and operate the flags at the race. Since the race spans across Saturday and Sunday, spectators will be able to camp out by the lake overnight, and they are also working to try to find someone to cater the event, he said.

“Of course we obviously want to win the race, but in the end I just want the hovercraft to perform the way we’ve designed it to,” Alan Hawkins, team member said. “It’ll be really nice to see all the work we’ve been doing take shape.”

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