UA Hovercraft Team Preparing for Race Against Rival, Others

Ashley Allison, a senior in aerospace engineering and mechanics at The University of Alabama, works on the UA Hoverteam's craft earlier this semester.
Ashley Allison, a senior in aerospace engineering and mechanics at The University of Alabama, works on the UA Hoverteam’s craft earlier this semester.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A team of University of Alabama engineering students are set to race in the Third Annual University Hoverbowl Challenge near Tuscaloosa March 28.

The UA Hoverteam will compete against a team of engineering students from Auburn University, the Hovering Tigers. The challenge will also feature other hovercraft enthusiasts who will race alongside the collegiate teams. Preparation for the contest begins at 9 a.m. at Lake Lurleen State Park in Coker, with races beginning at 11:30 a.m.

At the competition, the teams will compete in three, one-hour heat races. Though there are several underclassmen involved in the UA team, most members are a part of a senior design course led by Dr. Thomas Zeiler, UA associate professor and undergraduate program coordinator of aerospace engineering and mechanics.

This is the third year students from the UA College of Engineering have competed with a hovercraft, amphibious vehicles that ride on a small cushion of air capable of traveling over most relatively smooth surfaces.

In 2013, the Hoverclub of America hosted the first-ever University Hoverbowl Challenge at Lake Lurleen, and last year the team raced on Auburn’s campus.

Jacob Wilroy, a senior in aerospace engineering from Prattville and a part of the UA Hoverteam, said the students this year benefit from the work of the past two years. Last year’s craft is the prototype for the craft set to race at Lake Lurleen, he said.

“You figure out the problems that are associated with the design, and then you build another one that’s improved,” Wilroy said. “We had to come up with solutions to some of the problems they encountered last year. We looked to their model as the basics of how it should be done, but tried to make our craft lighter, faster and stronger.”

This year’s craft has less horsepower, but is lighter and uses a fan for propulsion instead of a propeller, Wilroy said.

The team raised almost $10,000 through grant proposals and donations, including a $2,700 outreach grant from the Alabama Space Grant Consortium.

A donation to the team by Scott and Kim Reasoner, parents of team member Victoria Reasoner, was matched by PDC Energy where Scott Reasoner is employed. The team also received professional advice from numerous professors and staff at the University along with hovercraft enthusiasts Kent Gano and Rick LeCroy.

To learn more about the University Hoverbowl Challenge, hosted by the Hovercraft Club of America, visit the event website at:

Senior aerospace engineering and mechanics students on the team include:

  • Ashley Allison, of Ocoee, Forida
  • Amber Deja, of Union, Kentucky
  • Kelli Harding, of Bankston
  • Clay Lemley, of Tuscaloosa
  • Ryan Miller, of South Haven, Michigan
  • Victoria Reasoner, of Greenwood Village, Colorado
  • Andrew Treadway, of Dale, Texas
  • Jacob Wilroy, of Prattville
  • Liang Zhu, of Guilin, Guangxi, China

Underclassmen on the team include:

  • Jacob Briscoe, a freshman in aerospace engineering and mechanics from Hartselle
  • Graham Carlton, a junior in mechanical engineering from Homewood
  • Matthew Chandler, a sophomore in civil engineering from Billingsley
  • Will Conlin, a junior in mechanical engineering from Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Tennyson Horn, a junior in civil engineering from Marion Junction
  • Trent Isaak, a junior in aerospace engineering and mechanics from Aviston, Illinois


Adam Jones, engineering public relations, 205/348-6444,