Picture of Chop Top
Make a top that creates colors from black!

This is one of the 48 projects for our Instructables: Made In Your Mind (IMIYM) exhibition at the Children’s Museum of Houston showing from May 26, 2012 - November 4, 2012. Produced in partnership with Instructables, IMIYM is an exhibit where families work together to build different fun, toy-like projects that help construct knowledge and skills related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics while instilling a “do-it-yourself” attitude in kids so they feel empowered to explore, tinker, and try to make things themselves. To learn more, check out the article here.

This project was originally conceived of by Children's Museum of Houston staff. After some searching, we didn't find anything on Instructables like it, but there may be some on Instructables that are similar, in which case please let us know through comments. Often, the materials and process for building our projects are designed for use with a large number of visitors (we see over 800,000 annually) and the need to ensure safety in a mostly non-facilitated environment. So, yes, many of these projects have room for improvement in both materials and methodology, which is PRECISELY what we want to encourage the kids to do. So please do share your ideas for improvement and modifications!
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Xixfas2 years ago
" Asian Food Grocer"
So, to get a little more into the physics of top spinning, it comes down to angular momentum. From what I understand, and my higher level physics is a bit rusty (and my calculus even more so :-), so please correct me if I'm wrong anywhere.

As the disk spin it has inertia (Newton's First Law of Motion). Think of one single point on the disk - that point tends to keep moving in a straight line. However, the solid disk forces it off of that straight line, resulting in an acceleration (a key point: in physics terms, acceleration is a change in speed and/or direction). Where there is acceleration, there is force, namely angular momentum which is what opposes the force of gravity. As long as angular momentum is greater than force of gravity, the top will spin.

The amount of this force opposing the gravity is based on the speed of the disk and the mass of the disk. So, as friction slows down the top, the angular momentum decreases until gravity is the greater force causign the top to tip over. Also, an off-center/off-balance top with have uneven angular momentum and that will cause it to fall over.
wilgubeast2 years ago
That's so cool! Also, you should enter this into the Make it Real Challenge along with the Education Contest. Since you used a computer to make the template, this absolutely qualifies.

Also, I know there are at least a handful of physics aficionados on Instructables who could explain what forces are acting upon the top. Possibly in the comments, guys?
Thanks for the suggestion. I'll do that!