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.

84 thoughts on “Teaching STEAM With Fidget Spinners

          1. Really man? Some of the coolest projects here are art installations. Hacks are a different story, but Art education has a HUGE amount to do with the creative thought process which I would argue is invaluable to someone going into a technical field.

      1. Stupid-ass Congresscritter had a campaign flyer last year bragging about, among other things, her support for “STEM*” in grade schools.

        Now at first, it struck me as a little odd to be teaching engineering in grade school. But at the bottom of the flier, I found this helpful explanation:
        ** Science, Technology, English, and Mathematics”

        1. In my 5th grade long ago we built bridges with straws and were graded on how much weight could be supported, much more interesting to me then painting at the time. Engineering rocks.

    1. My thoughts too, but apparently artists like to think of their creations as techy-sciency stuff. So I will sit here and shake my head and fume as I watch the movie Idiocracy begin playing in real life around me. STEM was formed to encourage school kids into the “hard” science fields to take over from the last generation and advance civilizations knowledge in those fields, By adding arts to the STEM programs I fear that much of that STEM funding will go to teaching students how to add 25 more channels of reality tv programing and maybe figure out how to incorporate that content into AR or VR to placate the masses while doing nothing to teach in hard science areas. Sorry for turning a comment into a rant but we as a collective whole need less artists and more leaders and innovators in the Science, Tech, Eng, and Math fields.

      1. Well your rant pretty well encapsulates how I fee as well. All “Art” does is muddy the waters in what was a decent core curriculum. Not that Art doesn’t have it’s place, if a STEM student wants to take what they have learned and apply it artistically, that’s awesome and should be encouraged. However as far as I am concerned it has no place as a defining pillar.

        1. I use to totally agree, art did not belong in the “hard” sciences. I believed this from my an early age until I was a couple of years working after college. I felt the same way about the social sciences as well. As I look back though I will have to admit my ignorance, stubbornness and pride at holding these views.

          In looking at my past, art influenced a lot of my career and direction. I love M.C. Eschers works. The mind bending views he created were beautiful. I loved learning about the math behind paintings, and some of the science of beauty. In playing with the ‘Game of life’ I was surprised and delighted in several of the structures and processes that were created.

          In the form of video games, art got me interested in computers. Some of my first interactions were typing in basic code to place simple games. This lead me towards programming. Some of my first programs were creating art by using loops and the ASCII character set. Later in life I wrote Collage programs to make pictures.

          I did not realize it at the time, but creating, changing and trying to understand art provided value in my live and helped me become a better engineer, it also helped set me on my path to becoming an engineer.

      2. Whatever happens, don’t stop painting!

        Sorry, gratuitous Idiocracy quote on the subject. A lot of schools HAVE been cutting art and music a bit too much for my taste, but it seems to me like that’s a completely different issue and I don’t see why bundling it with STEM education would help anything.

      3. Let me clarify that 4am just off a bad 10 hour shift rant, I do believe the ARTS are important but they are a completely different field of study from the STEM fields and the ARTS have a historically large social funding base to draw from so they shouldn’t need to draw funding from the meager STEM funds available. For example if want to start a hackerspace finding funds can be kind of hard, but if you relabel it an “Artistic community for the nurturing of the creative process” then there are plenty of grants available to apply for. Want to study some exothermic chemical reactions? You will need to get about a dozen permits and safety studies or you could just take it to burning man and call it art. I do love both the STEM and ARTS fields but I would rather read about a young john doe furthering research into improving drinking water filtration through modeling on a public access supercomputer then that same john doe winning an oscar for improving a method of blending CGI and live action for a better AR experience.

    2. Yup, WTF has art got to do with the others? I suspect some sneaky fucker slipped it in there as a dodge to get grant money that should legitimately go to teach kids technical subjects. Which was the whole idea, which is why they called it STEM.

      The world needs engineers and scientists. Art can fend for itself, get off our lawn! At least in Britain, contemporary art is completely corrupt and nepotistic, and churns out nothing but incomprehensible nonsense. Often it’s meaningless as well.

      There’s an Arts Council over here that hands out grants to whichever middle-class bullshitter can out-hipster the rest for this week. Scientists don’t apply for their money. Modern art’s a shameless joke, keep it away from our scene. S, T, E and M won’t be the ones who benefit from it.

  1. Srsly pls, have you calculated the performance of the CR2032 battery for your current consumption profile? I have some concerns about it (I actually doubt it can even turn on all blue LEDs with it’s internal resistance). What is the battery lifetime? Thanks.

    1. I’ve made similar POV stuff with CR2032 batteries and it works just fine with LEDs pulling a couple of milliamps each. What I’m concerned about are those RGD LEDs, since the voltage of the battery is around 3V and the forward voltage for green and blue LEDs is usually higher than that.

      1. I can’t see anywhere that suggests that it’s a CR2032? One schematic shows two cells and mentions LIPO.

        You can get Lithium rechargeable now as well in all sizes including LIR2032 which is the same size.

        I have also replaced a cell like this in a rechargeable torch. It was a LIR2450 and it was enough to drive a bright LED.

  2. “Fidget spinners have spun into our hearts like a shuriken…”
    ….causing major trauma (going by the vitriol in some comments :-)

    I think this is a great idea for STE(A)M related stuff – hang on the coat-tails of ‘populist’ toys/things and at least make something useful from the current wave of popularity. I can see this having more chance of gaining traction than the microBit, if only in the short-term while spinners are currently ‘all the rage’.

      1. I learned a lot from toy electronics sets, the ones with springs and a manual full of projects.
        LEGO STEM toy line, Mindstorms, taught me a lot about mechanical design and… almost-C programming.

    1. Yes, I’ve extended Daniel Ward’s work so specific authors are filtered out.

      I encourage you to use these scripts. It takes an enormous effort to force everyone to read what I write. I have to go around to all our readers, hold their eyelids open, and force them to read what I write in some bizarre mobile Clockwork Orange setup. This, alone, is a full-time job. Just the travel is exhausting, but that’s not the worst of it. It’s the psychological damage I inflict that makes it unbearable. I’ve read some accounts of what was happening in Guantanamo, and let me tell you, after a few years you stop being so cavalier about it. It’s truly draining to force people to read what you’ve written. Sometimes I wonder why I do it at all.

    1. If it means anything, from the sound of things we have passed “peak fidget spinner” and the market is in the process of going the way of the POG. So we only have to put of with this for a short while longer.

      1. If I recall correctly Pogs came out in about the same timeframe as fidget spinners and seeing a regain of popularity for the spinners (mainly due for the internet) maybe the Pogs will also make a comeback.

  3. Please check out this project in comparison. The page is in german but some of you may be able to read it.

    http://open-lab.at/index.php/blog/17-rgb-display-mit-beschleunigungssensor

    A friend and I designed this POV display for a summer school projekt. In oir area they organise events for school kids during the summer break. Some of these events theach the kids things about electronics. We made this kit that they can assemble themselves under our guidance. It has some RGB LEDs and a 3 axis accelerometer and some other stuff. We use the accelerometer to detect when you wave the thing like a sword and sync the POV display to the movement of your hand.

    Hope you enjoy it. All the design files can be downloaded from our webpage!

  4. All these talk about STEAM in schools. Schools should only teach hard science and mathematics! No diluting it with useless technology, engineering, and art. That’s right, schools should teach hard S&M, no TEA.

    (c:

  5. When we said we needed a better word for teaching engineering to students….. We didn’t mean add art. We meant make it cool. Like MECHA “Mechanical engineering (for) children having aptitude” or something.

          1. Anticlockwise on even numbered calendar days, clockwise otherwise, except on full moons and bank holidays where I prefer an even 120* step every 2 minutes driven by an escapement on a geared down larger spinner.

    1. You spin them or just turn them around in your hand when you don’t have something better to do with your hands and are trying to concentrate.

      Just like those chi balls people have used for centuries, or the large ball bearing I keep on my desk for this purpose.

      The difference is that spinners are trendy, and people comment about how horrible they are so they can make themselves seem unique… just like everyone else.

  6. My hobby of electronics’s has many point of contact with the S.T.E.A.M. educational systeam. When making a project i need to find out new mathematical formulas, have to engineering the circuit, have a basic understanding of the sound that is science, make a nice enclosure that is art

  7. Thanks for this great Buzz. @brianbenchoff, It is a good idea to call this gadget as STEAM FIDGET SPINNER. We are as http://www.makerstorage.com designing hardware products for makers. In this project, our aim is to teach young generation coding in a funny way. This project is opensource. You can build one for yourself. We will develop some software libraries for easy programming. The board has a rotation sensor. People are emailing me with great feedback and ideas. Thanks for this great community.

  8. what’s the point of a focus program if it simply includes everything anyway? What’s next STEAMS where the second S is Sports? then we’re right back to where we started.

    1. The point of the A in STEAM isn’t always “art” in the classical sense, but it takes an artistic mind to figure out unique solutions to things sometimes. If we always just simply went by what’s -in the books- then we wouldn’t have half of the technological advances we do today. Teaching people to be creative…and MAKE THINGS is enough to be considered art. Otherwise we’d all just be sitting here with no projects, and simulating everything on Solidworks.

        1. Agreed. I have a suggestion. Let’s include those important fields that support STEM, but put them in a separate acronym to show their importance.

          Sports are great for teaching the hacker mindset. Think, “How do I get around the rules without actually breaking them?” Inflate-gate, doping, etc., are some innovative hacks supporting sport goals. It’s also good for pulling interest from those that aren’t normally interested in the nerd fields. There’s your S.

          Language is a critical supporting field as well. After all, what good is an invention if there’s no documentation on how to use it or create new ones? Or to write the patent that protects your revenue stream. There’s your L.

          Arts, of course, are very important. Even Einstein once said, “I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination.” Enough has already been spoken about including this A.

          Conflict has historically provided a potent incentive for innovation. The urge to get even, or the threat of loss of life has motivated many a nerd, and can be argued to be the genesis of much of the military/industrial complex that employs many a STEM graduate. There’s a C for you.

          Similar to conflict, but using the afterlife as its primary motivation force, is religion. Many of the advancements in metallurgy and chemistry were in support of religious wars. It engenders passion and a drive for purpose. Thus we have an R.

          Now if we separate the “hard” skills and those skills that are critical to supporting them, we have two separate but equal acronyms:
          S.T.E.M. & S.L.A.C.R.

          Problem solved.

  9. Is STEM, STEAM a bit of a buzz word at the moment, yes. Driven by industry and government , yes. But that doesn’t necessary make it necessarily a new fad. The principles are at the core of educational principles past. I can’t see Euclid and Aristotle departmentalising their students.
    The Arts encourages creative thinking while in mathematics logical reasoning is supreme. They can sit side by side. The Arts is the great communicator, explaining complex principles of the sciences to the masses. I don’t know many Science geeks who haven’t been inspired by a little Science Fiction or vice a versa.
    In Engineering, well, great architecture is beautiful, artistic and sustainable. I’m not an engineer, but engineers seem pretty artistic to me.
    Time for people to stop squabbling over specifics and lets start the collaboration between Scientists, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics to make the world a better place. These silos come from an Industrial age past- time to move on .
    STEAM is here to stay…

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