Spinning Things

Spinning Things: Building Tops with Everyday Materials 

Spinning motion is everywhere—from simple toy tops to gyroscopes used in spacecraft navigation. In this online workshop, we’ll investigate spinning motion by designing and building our own tops using everyday materials. This workshop will provide plenty of opportunities to be creative, experimental, and whimsical as we explore the physics of spin. Take a look at this introductory video.


  • Several pencils of different lengths, including some short pencils if you have some. 
  • Cardboard: simple boxboard (like the kind that makes cereal boxes or shoe boxes) will work fine. A few sheets roughly 8” x 8” or larger will be enough. 
  • Corrugated cardboard: A few sheets roughly 8” x 8” or larger. 
  • Masking tape
  • Color markers
  • One large nail
  • Pennies or washers for weights (6–10 is plenty). 
  • Scissors
  • A bowl, cup, or other round object you can use to trace a circle. 

Optional materials: 

  • Paper plates (dinner size and dessert size, and several of each). 
  • String. 
  • Compass for drawing circles. 
  • Ruler. 
  • Modeling clay or Play-Doh. 
  • Thin color markers.