Check Out The Awesome Hovercraft This Startup's Engineers Built In A 48-Hour Hackathon

soundcloud hovercraft hackathon

Photo: SoundCloud

Hackathons are a tradition at Silicon Valley startups. Some of the best technology companies in the world—like Facebook, for example—rely on them to surface up the next top projects for the company.These marathon coding and hacking sessions aim to build new working products within the designated timeframe—typically 24 to 72 hours.

Sometimes you get fantastic new products. Sometimes you get some weird pieces of technology.

Like a hovercraft—built at a hackathon which happened over the past weekend hosted by SoundCloud, a startup that helps you store and share clips of sound and music online.

Jump straight to photos of SoundCloud’s Hackathon weekend 
Surprisingly, the hovercraft wasn’t the project that won the 48-hour-long contest—it was an actual service that could be useful to SoundCloud in the future called Never Ending Story.

Here are some of the other neat projects built during the hack weekend:

  • Toybox: A toddler’s toy built on Arduino, an open hardware platform, and Raspberry Pi, a $25 computer, able to play back custom SoundCloud sounds in reaction to the physical world.
  • Never Ending Story (We Hack 2012 winner): The age-old kid’s game: start a story and pass it on. The narrative begins with a SoundCloud file; you create a never-ending playlist of new people who tell new parts of a story.
  • Soundifyificationizer: Turns text into music by mapping groups of characters to MIDI notes for melody and drums.
  • HOVA: The hovercraft mentioned above.
  • StreadCloud: A meme-ifying tool to turn a photo of SoundCloud’s chief architect into a joke. Includes voting.
  • Ruly: “R U Lost Yet” gives your friends a map with audio-powered step-by-step directions.
  • Graphiz: A visualisation of connections on SoundCloud
  • Deutsch Dienstag: An English-German phrasebook. Click an English sentence to hear the German translation
  • BunnyStall: Build custom applications for the Nabaztag “rabbit.”
  • SoundCal: Allows users to add SoundCloud tracks to a calendar via the artwork widget.
  • Foodbaby: A website for collecting favourite recipes via an “Eat Later” bookmarklet. Once you cook the meal, you can connect the recipe to an Instagram photo of the dish.
  • Desmond: A port of the Android SoundCloud app to Google’s new experimental media streaming device, the Nexus Q.
  • Day In Sound: A day in the life of a SoundClouder in 2012.
  • SoundChain: Record a sound and send it to someone to continue and eventually make into a chain of sounds.
  • TweetSpeak: Allows you to speak your own tweets. Pick your best tweet, record it, and post it to Twitter.
  • Wedoc: A documentation of the weekend from audio interviews and montages.
  • Lunchbox: A mobile app enabling SoundCloud staffers to meet for lunch.
  • Message In A Bottle: Short message broadcasting with anonymous replies. Think of anonymous twitter.
  • The Passion Project: Stories of individuals sharing their passion with the world, arranged in a sensible way—kind of like Pinterest.
  • Screen Printing Workshop: Screen print “We Hack” t-shirts, thanks to Etsy Labs in Berlin.

There was a huge turnout for the weekend, as was well-documented by its employees.

One of the projects was screen-printing t-shirts for the events, with the help of Etsy.

As with most hackathons, there isn't a whole lot of structure—you just take a nap when you need it.

But enough of that. Let's get onto the hovercraft!

The whole build looks pretty straightforward. A wood base with flexible fabric over it to allow it to inflate with air.

They aren't trying to do things in a very fancy way. They only have 48 hours, after all.

Here's what's going to fill the fabric up with air.

The hovercraft is inflated with this leaf-blower-esque machine, plugged directly into the board.

It feeds air straight into the fabric to inflate it, which creates a separation from the ground.

After a quick test run, it appears to be mobile.

Time for one last piece — a spot to sit on the hovercraft.

Boom! A fully-operational hovercraft named HOVA.

They even decided to add big letters to show off the setup.


Pretty much every employee at the hack day took it for a spin.

The team offered a technical debriefing for the assembly of the device ...

... but it seemed like most everyone was just interested in riding it.

Seriously, who wouldn't want to ride around in a hovercraft?

Like that new bit from SoundCloud's top engineers?

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