Teaching STEAM With Fidget Spinners

A huge focus of the maker revolution has been a focus on STEAM education, or rather an education in science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. We’ve seen innumerable kits and tools designed to introduce children to STEAM apps, ranging from electronic Lego blocks to robotics kits built around interlocking plastic bricks. These are just a passing fad, but finally, we have what looks like a winner: a STEAM education fidget spinner.

Fidget spinners have spun into our hearts like a shuriken over the last few months, and [MakerStorage]’s latest project taps into the popularity of fidget spinners to put an educational — wait for it — spin on the usual STEAM education toolkit. This is exactly what the maker revolution needs.

On board this educational fidget spinner are a few RGB LEDs and an Arduino-compatible microcontroller development board. A coin cell battery powers everything, and in an interesting advancement of fidget spinner science, [MakerStorage] seems to be using a flanged bearing with a PCB. We’re seeing the march of technology right before our eyes, people. Right now there are two versions of the educational fidget spinner, one with an Arduino Pro Micro soldered to the board, and another with an ATMega-derived custom circuit on the board along with a PCB USB connector.

Haven’t gotten enough fidget spinner news? OH BOY does Hackaday have you covered. Here’s the Internet of Fidget Spinners, a fidget spinner with an embedded WiFi microcontroller and a bunch of blinky LEDs. Those LEDs form a Persistence of Vision display. It’s amazing, astonishing, and it’s in fidget spinner format. Bored with your oscilloscope? Turn it into a fidget spinner tachometer. There’s literally nothing that can’t be applied to the world of fidget spinners.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Internet of Fidget Spinners

We just closed out the Internet of Useful Things round of the Hackaday Prize, which means we’re neck deep in judging projects to move onto the final round this fall. Last week, everyone on Hackaday.io was busy getting their four project logs and illustrations ready for the last call in this round of the Hackaday Prize. These projects are the best of what the Internet of Things has to offer because this is the Internet of Useful things.

We’re not sure how [Matthias]’ project will rank. It’s an Internet of Things fidget spinner. Yeah, we know, but there are some interesting engineering challenges in building an Internet-connected fidget spinner.

This is a PoV fidget spinner, which means the leading edges of this tricorn spinner are bedazzled with APA102 LEDs. Persistence-of-vision toys are as old as Hackaday, and the entire idea of a fidget spinner is to spin, so this at least makes sense.

These PoV LEDs are driven by an ESP8285, or an ESP8266 with onboard Flash. This is probably the smallest wireless microcontroller you can find, an important consideration for such a small build. Power comes from a tiny LiPo, and additional peripherals include an accelerometer to measure wobble and an optical switch to measure the rotation speed.

These electronics are fairly standard, and wouldn’t look out of place in any other project in The Hackaday Prize. The trick here is mechanical. [Matthias] needs to mount a skateboard bearing to a PCB, and no one has any idea how he’s going to do that. A fidget spinner should be well-balanced, and again [Matthias] is running into a problem. Has anyone here ever done mass and density calculations on PCBs and lithium cells? Is it possible to 3D print conformal counterweights? Has science gone too far?

Will the Internet of Things PoV Fidget Spinner make it to the finals round of The Hackaday Prize? We’ll need to wait a week or so to find out. One thing is for certain, though: you’re going to see this on AliBaba before September.

Big Slew Bearings Can Be 3D Printed

Consider the humble ball bearing. Ubiquitous, useful, and presently annoying teachers the world over in the form of fidget spinners. One thing ball bearings aren’t is easily 3D printed. It’s hard to print a good sphere, but that doesn’t mean you can’t print your own slew bearings for fun and profit.

As [Christoph Laimer] explains, slew bearings consist of a series of cylindrical rollers alternately arranged at 90° angles around an inner and outer race, and are therefore more approachable to 3D printing. Slew bearings often find application in large, slowly rotating applications like crane platforms or the bearings between a wind turbine nacelle and tower. In the video below, [Christoph] walks us through his parametric design in Fusion 360; for those of us not well-versed in the app, it looks a little like magic. Thankfully he has provided both the CAD files and a selection of STLs for different size bearings.

[Christoph] is no stranger to complex 3D-printable designs, like his recent brushless DC motor or an older clock build. The clock is cool, but the bearings and motors really get us — we’ll need such designs to get to self-replicating machines.

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You Won’t Believe That Fidget Spinners Are Obvious Clickbait!

I don’t know why fidget spinners are only getting popular now. They’ve been selling like hotcakes on Tindie for a year now, and I’ve been seeing 3D printed versions around the Internet for almost as long. Nevertheless, fidget spinners — otherwise known as a device to turn a skateboard bearing into a toy — have become unbelievably popular in the last month or so. Whatever; I’m sure someone thinks my complete collection of Apollo 13 Pogs from Carl’s Jr. with modular Saturn V Pog carry case and aluminum slammer embossed with the real Apollo 13 mission patch is stupid as well.

However, a new fad is a great reason to drag out an oscilloscope, measure the rotation of a fidget spinner, take a video of the whole endeavor, and monetize it on YouTube. That’s just what [Frank Buss] did. It’s like he’s printing money at this point.

The measurement setup for this test is simple enough. [Frank] connected a small solar cell to the leads of his $2k oscilloscope, and placed the cell down on his workbench. This generated a voltage of about 28mV. Spinning the fidget spinner cast a shadow over the cell that was measured as a change in voltage. Oscilloscopes measure frequency, and by dividing that frequency by three, [Frank] calculated his fidget spinner was spinning at the remarkable rate of 2200 RPM.

Is this a stupid use of expensive equipment? Surprisingly no. The forty thousand videos on YouTube demonstrating a “99999+ RPM Fidget Spinner” all use cheap digital laser tachometers available for $20 on eBay. These tachometers top out at — you guessed it — 99999 RPM. Using only an oscilloscope and a solar cell [Frank] found in his parts drawer, he found an even better way to push the envelope of fidget spinner test and measurement.

Using this method, even an inexpensive 40MHz scope can reliably measure three-bladed fidget spinners up to 800,000,000 RPM. Of course, this calculation doesn’t take into account capacitance in the cell, you’ll need a margin for Nyquist, and everything within 20 meters will be destroyed, but there you go. A better way to measure the rotation speed of fidget spinners. It’s technically a hack.

You can check out [Frank]’s video of this experiment below. If you liked this post, don’t forget to like, rate, comment and subscribe for even more of the best Fidget Spinner news.

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