Summary
Students are challenged to design and build spinners that spins the longest. They build at least two simple spinners to conduct experiments with different mass distributions and shapes. Use this handson activity to demonstrate rotational inertia, rotational speed, angular momentum, and velocity.Engineering Connection
Engineers understand the concepts associated with circular motion and angular momentum as they design equipment, systems and products with spinning components. Aerospace engineers design satellites to spin as they orbit around the Earth so that they do not tumble out of control. Automotive engineers design car parts to spin in specific ways so that they do not come apart at high speeds. Mechanical engineers design generators, washers, dryers, fans and other machines so that they are balanced as they spin. Even a forward pass in football is more effective and stable with the right spin.
Learning Objectives
After this activity, students should be able to:
 Explain how mass and radius relate to angular momentum.
 Describe the law of conservation of angular momentum
 Collect, analyze and interpret data on the rotational speed of an object and correlate the speed to variations in the geometry of the object
 Explain how engineers apply the concepts associated with circular motion and angular momentum to design equipment, systems, and products with spinning components
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Educational Standards
Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K12 science,
technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.
All 100,000+ K12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN),
a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).
In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics;
within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.
Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.
All 100,000+ K12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).
In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.
NGSS: Next Generation Science Standards  Science

Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
(Grades 6  8)
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This standard focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts Analyze and interpret data to determine similarities and differences in findings. There are systematic processes for evaluating solutions with respect to how well they meet the criteria and constraints of a problem.Sometimes parts of different solutions can be combined to create a solution that is better than any of its predecessors.Although one design may not perform the best across all tests, identifying the characteristics of the design that performed the best in each test can provide useful information for the redesign process—that is, some of the characteristics may be incorporated into the new design. 
Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.
(Grades 6  8)
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This standard focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts Develop a model to generate data to test ideas about designed systems, including those representing inputs and outputs. Models of all kinds are important for testing solutions.The iterative process of testing the most promising solutions and modifying what is proposed on the basis of the test results leads to greater refinement and ultimately to an optimal solution.
Common Core State Standards  Math

Use variables to represent quantities in a realworld or mathematical problem, and construct simple equations and inequalities to solve problems by reasoning about the quantities.
(Grade 7)
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Solve linear equations in one variable.
(Grade 8)
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Rearrange formulas to highlight a quantity of interest, using the same reasoning as in solving equations.
(Grades 9  12)
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International Technology and Engineering Educators Association  Technology

Some technological problems are best solved through experimentation.
(Grades 6  8)
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State Standards
Colorado  Math

Solve realworld and mathematical problems involving the four operations with rational numbers.
(Grade
7)
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Solve linear equations and inequalities in one variable, including equations with coefficients represented by letters.
(Grades
9 
12)
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Colorado  Science

Use mathematical expressions to describe the movement of an object
(Grade
8)
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Develop and design a scientific investigation to collect and analyze speed and acceleration data to determine the net forces acting on a moving object
(Grade
8)
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Materials List
Each group needs:
 a flat round object, such as a jar lid, compact disk or paper plate
 2 pencils (or, alternatively, thumbtacks or pushpins)
 tape
 2 rubber bands
 cereal boxweight cardboard
 6 pennies
 scissors
 markers
 The Spin on Things Worksheet, one per person
Introduction/Motivation
Aerospace engineers design satellites to spin as they fly above the Earth so that they do not tumble out of control. Automotive engineers design car parts to spin in very certain ways so that they do not come apart. Mechanical engineers design generators and other machines so that they are balanced as they spin. Even children on playgrounds who play on swings and spinning merrygorounds for fun care a lot about how things spin!
With today's activity and worksheet, you will explore how things spin. What makes some things spin a long time, and other things fall over right away? What is the best shape for a spinner? How do spinners work? We will find the answers to these questions and more!
Procedure
Before the Activity
 Gather materials and make copies of The Spin on Things Worksheet.
 Have students bring in from home some circular objects such as jar lids and old CDs, pennies, and cardboard cereal boxes or paper plates.
With the Students
 Discussion: Ask students if any of them has ever built a spinner. If necessary, explain what a spinner is. With what did they make the spinner? (Examples: A football, a penny, etc.) How do their spinners work? Explain that in this activity students will learn more about how spinners work as they design and build their own spinners.
 Draw three circles on cardboard by tracing around a circular object. Cut them out.
 Poke a pencil through the middle of one of the cardboard circles. Hold it firmly in place by winding rubber bands around the pencil above and below the cardboard.
 With a marker, draw a thick, dark line at any point on the cardboard spinner top. Have the students spin the spinner. Count the number of rotations the spinner makes within 10 seconds. Write this number down. (The line must be very dark to be able to read it while the shape is spinning.)
 Poke the pencil through another disk at a point away from its center. Describe the motion.
 Give your spinner a long handle and a short tip by pushing just a little of the pencil through the hole. How well does the spinner spin?
 Now push most of the pencil through the cardboard circle to make a longtipped spinner with a short handle. Does the spin change?
 Now tape six pennies on to the outer rim of one spinner, and six pennies close to the center of another spinner (both spinners should have the pencil at the center of the circle).
 Repeat Step 4 with both of these spinners.
 Cut a square or triangle shape from cardboard. Poke a pencil through the center and give it a whirl. Which top stays spinning the longest? Repeat Step 4 with this spinner.
 Have student groups fill out the worksheet and check their answers with another student group.
 Review the worksheets with the entire class.
Worksheets and Attachments
Safety Issues
Sharp pencil points and thumbtacks present a hazard.
Troubleshooting Tips
If the pencils are too unstable, thumbtacks or pushpins may serve as a better axis for the spinners to rotate about.
Sometimes the spinner is hard to keep balanced. It may take the students several tries before they can balance the spinner and count the line as it passes.
Keys to spinner design (Hauser, 1999):
 A disk shape evenly distributes the mass about the center. That is also why poking the pencil through the center works best.
 A long handle and a short tip. The top is more stable when it has a low center of gravity.
 Weight evenly distributed at the outer edge gives the top more spinning inertia.
 The harder you twist when you start the spinner, the longer the spin.
Assessment
PreActivity Assessment
Discussion Questions: Ask the students and discus as a class:
 Has anyone has ever built a spinner? If necessary, explain what a spinner. With what did they make spinners? (Examples: A football, a penny, etc.) How do their spinners work? Explain that in this activity, students will learn more about how spinners work as they make and test their own spinner designs.
Activity Embedded Assessment
Worksheet: Have students use the activity worksheet to help them complete the activity. Review their answers to gauge their mastery of the subject.
Pairs Check: As student groups finish their worksheets, have them check their answers with another team, giving all groups time to finish the worksheet.
PostActivity Assessment
Class Presentation: Have the groups present their best spinner designs to the rest of the class and discuss why they worked best, in terms of the rotation concepts.
Activity Extensions
Have students devise their own spinning creations at home, using lids, plates, cardboard and other household materials. Have them report back to the class what designs worked best. Have them demonstrate using their homemade spinners.
Hold a contest to see which spinner can spin the longest. Ask the team with that spinner to explain why their spinner lasts the longest.
References
Hauser, Jill Frankel. Gizmos and Gadgets: Creating Science Contraptions that Work (and Knowing Why). Charlotte, VT: Williamson Publishing, 1999. (Activity adapted from Hauser.)
Contributors
Ben Heavner; Sabre Duren; Malinda Schaefer Zarske; Denise W. CarlsonCopyright
© 2004 by Regents of the University of ColoradoSupporting Program
Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado BoulderAcknowledgements
The contents of this digital library curriculum were developed under grants from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education, and National Science Foundation (GK12 grant no 0338326). However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the Department of Education or National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.
Last modified: December 7, 2017
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