City students, lecturers successfully test first homemade hovercraft

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The 4.2-meter long boat was brought to the university's soccer ground as many people watched with interest and some excitement.

After a round of checks, Vy Bao Thinh, one of the students, got into it and started the engine. The flap around the bottom inflated and the boat moving on a bed of air cushion.

When the boat was some 40 meters from its starting point, its speed reached 20 kilometers per hour.

Bakvee (Bach Khoa Air Cushion Vehicle), as the boat is named, was made during the summer by a group of students from different departments, including traffic technology and electronics, under the direction of their lecturers, said Associate Professor Nguyen Thien Tong.

The budget to make the hovercraft was provided by the Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City. However, because the budget was limited, the makers had to be very careful with everything they did, paying attention to all the small details.

For instance, Thinh, who headed the student group, said that before cutting the flap, also known as skirt, he had to practice many times on paper. But, when it came to the real flap, he was still afraid that he would damage it and once, even returned it to his instructor, Dr. Le Dinh Tuan.

Tuan, who heads the university's traffic techniques department, meanwhile, sold his ring and called for donations from other teachers to raise the VND11 million (US$528.8) to have the boat painted.

Despite the financial difficulties, Tuan was upbeat: "Usually people who work in sciences are very lonely, but we aren't." In fact, Tuan and his students received help from many others, including in technical matters, he said.

Bakvee underwent the first trial on September 10 successfully.

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With a weight of 200 kilograms, the hovercraft can move in water at speeds of 40-50 kilometers per hour, according to its makers, who also said it can start and speed up very quickly

In case of strong winds, it can work with very good balance, and move on waters that are full of obstacles like underground rocks where normal ships can't move, they said.

Moreover, it is equipped with the Global Positioning System (GPS), and can function as a rescue and tourism boat.

Tong said they would continue making hovercrafts and hoped to receive funding to attract more students. Thinh plans to establish a hovercraft club for students.

Tuan said his group's greatest hope is to receive support from shipbuilding and tourism businesses so the hovercraft can be put into commercial use.

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