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This STEM activity guides students through the engineering design process to develop their own fidget spinners. Learn about the science of spinning and then use that information to plan out a design and execute the creation of their very own spinner. Students then test and improve their designs based on findings. You may choose simple spinner (to spin on a flat surface, essentially a spinning top) or a fidget spinner (must fit and spin comfortably in one hand). Because there are many options along the way for making this simpler or more challenging, it is appropriate for students in grades 3 and up.
Get a video overview of this resource and some tips in the video:
Students will need to use higher order thinking skills and teamwork as they work in small groups to complete this challenge. They will follow these steps in the process:
ASK - Can you design a spinner that spins for X seconds?
IMAGINE - Brainstorm ideas for the spinner and then choose one.
PLAN - Create a detailed design of the spinner based on available materials.
CREATE - Build and test the spinner. Record the duration of the spin.
IMPROVE - Improve the design to make the spinner spin longer. This may include adding material, removing material, or starting over.
REFLECT and SHARE - Present findings to peers. Ask for feedback. If you have time, host and engineering design review.
Materials needed for this challenge:
*stopwatch or app to record spin time
*technical building pieces OR
*skate bearings, neodymium magnets*, duct tape, strong glue (super glue or cyanoacrylate) and miscellaneous hardware (nuts, bolts, marbles, etc.)
Designing a Spinner: Overview, includes detailed materials list, instructions, and sample images of various spinners.
Planning time line
Introduction to Engineering for Elementary Students
Design Criteria pages (4 options, depending on whether you choose simple or fidget spinner)
Vocabulary "Talk Like an Engineer" word wall cards (2 pages)
The Science of Spinning (2 pages)
Warm-up activity (1 page)
Testing data sheet (2 options)
Design a Spinner STEM recording options: 1 page, 2 page, graphic organizer, or 10-page booklet
Design a spinner optional STEM center pages (to set up as an independent work station)
Follow-up activities - math extension to calculate the spinner cost and marketing campaign to advertise the spinner
Certificates of Completion, color and b&w included
This challenge, if used in full, touches on all aspects of STEM:
SCIENCE - background science information about rotational motion, such as inertia, torque, angular momentum. Scientific experiments to get a hands-on feel for both center of mass and angular momentum.
TECHNOLOGY - in the follow up extension activity, students create an advertisement. This can be a video, a social media ad, etc. Use technology to create the ad.
ENGINEERING - design and create the spinner. Follow the EDP and apply both scientific and mathematical concepts to increase angular momentum. Complete a bill of materials.
MATHEMATICS - calculate the average spin time and cost of the spinner (material cost, assembly cost, and packaging cost). Find out how much 1000 spinners would cost to produce.
Supports NGSS 3-5-ETS1-1, 3-5-ETS1-2, 3-5-ETS1-3, MS-ETS1-1,MS-ETS1-2, MS-ETS1-3, MS-ETS1-4.
*************************** Related Resources *************************
Engineering Design Challenges (initial purchase)
Engineering Design Challenge ADD ON PACKS (subsequent purchase)
*Disclaimer: I have done my best to keep these as safe as possible. However, please make sure that you do your own due diligence when performing any STEM challenge. Adult supervision is necessary. Please use care, caution, and your best judgement when performing any STEM challenge, engineering challenge, or science experiment. The seller disclaims all liability for any damage or injury which might arise from the use of any of these projects. If you will use neodymium magnets, please be aware that I do not recommend most children handle these. They are very strong and dangerous if swallowed. If using them, please read the instructions thoroughly so that they are fixed/glued before your students interact with them.