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STEM Activities

At-Home Edition

Spinning Top


Materials needed:

  • cardboard

  • construction paper or computer paper

  • crayons or markers

  • scissors

  • glue stick

  • penny


How to:

  1. Cut out a 4.5" circle from a piece of thicker cardboard. 

  2. Use the cardboard cutout to trace a circle on to construction paper or computer paper. Cut out the circle and use crayons or markers to decorate it!

  3. Cut a tiny slit in the center of the cardboard circle so the penny can slide in. If the slit is too wide, the penny will not stay in place very well.

  4. Cut another small slit in the center of your colored template so it will slide over the top of the penny.

  5. Glue your template onto the cardboard.

  6. Test out your spinning top!


How does it work?

Why does a top spin? When you spin a top into motion, you are applying a force that converts the top's potential (stored) energy into kinetic energy, or energy of motion. As it spins in its upright position, it rotates around an invisible vertical axis. The top would keep spinning indefinitely if there were no other external forces acting upon it. However, that is not the case. Tops are never perfectly balanced and weighted, and the surfaces they spin on are not perfectly level. These imperfections allow other forces, including friction and gravity, to come into play. When it's spinning, a top balances on a tiny tip. This minimizes the amount of friction generated by its contact with the surface below it. Eventually, though, friction will begin to slow the top's spin.

(from, 2019)

Want to learn more?

Check out these eBooks (available on Hoopla with your library card):

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