Video: Student Transforms Scrap Into High-Flying Model Plane

One man’s trash is another man’s turbo. Sheperd

When I was a teenager, I could build all kinds of crap using trash. A wobbly longboard, makeshift weaponry, or even a bike ramp cobbled together out of recycling bins and a plank of wood. Occasionally, those things worked; mostly, I just hurt myself. Fortunately, the young man in this video is nothing like me. Rather than throw away the fan from an old wall-unit electric heater, Samm Sheperd used the centrifugal fan blower motor to make a sweet model airplane.

It was no small effort. Sheperd actually engineered an entire aircraft to accommodate the bulky motor. Eventually, the novel little power source was capable of launching the 800-gram Styrofoam plane into an impressive flight.

Here’s how it works: The electric-powered centrifugal fan sucks in air through an intake port, then blows it out in a desired direction, pressurizing it along the way. So it’s sort of like a turbocharger in a car, except cooler. Better yet, Sheperd went so far as to add a four-axis gyroscope to increase the stability of the little plane.

And the sound, too—razor-sharp and unmistakably mechanical, like a miniature jet fighting a Dremel in fast-forward. O.K., so Sheperd’s RC plane might not be the most powerful or efficient aircraft. But this kid deserves some serious recognition for his creativity and engineering capabilities.