FCS Hovercraft Competition Revs Up Students for Future in Engineering

  • Posted 4/14/2023

    Joseph Buffington

    Joseph Buffington has a motto in his classroom: “excellence without excuses.”

    Buffington’s students at Banneker High School seek that excellence every year as they work together on a big project in his Engineering Concepts class. The students build a fully functioning hovercraft, using basic, low-cost supplies found at any home improvement store.

    Because the project is so much fun, Buffington says his students, “didn’t know they were learning things.” Employability skills and engineering techniques are just some of the topics covered.

    Once the student-designed hovercraft is off the ground, the next step is the Fulton County Hovercraft Competition. Buffington founded the event in 2007, and Banneker hosted the 16th annual competition this year.

    Buffington says March is a busy month for competitions in Fulton County Schools, but the hovercraft competition has an edge – “it’s quick, it’s fast, it’s fun and you don’t stay there all day.”

    Powered only by fans or leaf blowers, the student-designed hovercrafts compete in two races, with bragging rights on the line in several categories.

    Five high schools competed this year: Banneker, Innovation Academy, Northview, Johns Creek and North Springs.

    Banneker took home first place in three categories: Best Design, Fastest Qualifying Time and Speed & Performance. Johns Creek took home 2nd place in Speed & Performance. North Springs placed 3rd.

    Innovation Academy won 2nd place in Fastest Qualifying Time. North Springs took home a 1st place trophy in the category of Most Technologically Innovative.

    The three trophies for Banneker are a solid send-off for Buffington. He is retiring at the end of the 2023-24 school year, after 33 years of teaching. Previously he worked as a Senior Electrical Engineer with Georgia Power. He also worked as a substitute teacher, which inspired him to change careers.

    In his more than 30 years of teaching, one thing has stuck with him.

    “When you’re speaking to the students, you may not think they’re listening. But they are listening.”

    He speaks of students who have contacted him years after graduation.

    “They will tell you, you said something that helped them along the way.”



    dBuffington & Crew