YOUNG engineers have been given a lift after displaying their technical skills in a hovercraft design challenge.

Two teams from Haughton Academy joined dozens of Year 10 pupils, from schools across Darlington, in a competition to build and pilot a working hovercraft.

The annual project was hosted by Darlington’s Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College and delivered by Joanne Crowther, the founder of specialists J & J Projects for Schools.

The contest enables students to gain an insight into the benefits of careers in engineering and the importance of science, technology, engineering and maths both in school and in further education.

Their brief was to design and build a working hovercraft, powered by a leaf blower, from insulation board and plastic sheeting including calculating the dimensions and proportions of the vehicle and taking into account the weight of the pilot. They also had to decorate the crafts before racing each other to determine the durability of their designs.

Haughton Academy technician Andy Cowley-Blair said: “Our teams were selected from Year 10 pupils who are currently studying BTEC Technical Award in Engineering.

“This project has given them a real flavour of the engineering skills required in a design, manufacture and testing process and they have really risen to the challenge.”

Pupils were helped by student mentors from Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College’s Future Engineers programme before hovercrafts were pitted against each other in a race finale.

Pilot for the Haughton Mad Dogz hovercraft Abigail Jones, 15, of Darlington, said: “I’m interested in studying engineering at university so this was a really exciting challenge.

“We worked very well as a team and the craft evolved from all of our ideas as the day went on. The project is a great idea and we all got a lot out of it.”

After deliberation on design, presentation and race durability, first place was awarded to Hummersknott Academy with Haughton Mad Dogz named runner-up.

Mrs Crowther said: “Our hovercraft challenge creates a real buzz for students. It really helps pupils to engage, improve their team work and communication skills and gain an insight into engineering as a future career.”

Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College took over responsibility of hosting the event from the former Darlington Foundation for Jobs STEM initiative.

Deputy principal Laurence Job said: “Engineering is a key employment industry so it was very important for us to keep the project going.

“It is a great way to spark an interest in young people and help develop the skills of the young engineers of the future.”