Introduction: Coffee Cup Whirlygig

It's spring madness again and time to create our coffee cup version of the Flower Whirligig Robogigithingy    This is a wind driven fanciful animated display.

This is also a simulation of Eric Wilhelm's treadmill desk to see if it may or may not be right for you...or your staff.

Note: When fully assembled, this model's turbine was not up to spec.  It had to be turned by hand as the air from a hair dryer was not powerful enough to turn the mechanism under full load.  May not be suitable for outdoor use.  Your mileage may vary.

Step 1: Raid the Pantry...and Electrical Closet...

For this project you just need a few simple things:

Three clean paper coffee cups.

Two pieces of stiff wire about 8 inches long. It doesn't matter if it is insulated or not.

Some tape.

A bit of stiff cardboard.

A plastic straw.  It needs to fit over the wires.

Scissors or utility knife to cut cardboard and paper.

Wire cutters and pliers to work the wire.

Step 2: Do the Pokey-pokey...

Take a length of wire and run it straight through the cup about 1/3 of the way down from the open end of the cup.  It should be level.

Use something sharp like the end of a pointy pair of scissors to begin the hole.

It is recommended to put a piece of clear tape over the hole on the front and back surface of the cup in order to reinforce the hole from wear. 

Step 3: Belly of the Beast...

Pull the wire out of the cup.

Create a square U shaped part of the wire.  This will serve as the crank for our upright drive wire.

Cut out a piece of plastic straw to serve as a roller sleeve for our wire shafts.  Make sleeves where the upright drive wire will go and for the two entry points into the cup.

The plastic straw sleeves will also help it turn smoothly.

Create an upright drive rod.  Wind one end around the plastic sleeve in the U part of the crank wire.

Poke a hole in the top of the cup for the upright drive wire.  Reinforce with tape.

Place the entire assembly into the cup, feeding the wires into the holes.  You can bend the wires to make it fit and then straighten everything back up when inserted.

Test the mechanism by turning the wire.  You can also tape the plastic sleeves in place to the cup. 

Bend the short end of the wire to keep it from pulling out.  The U crank should be somewhat centered in the cup and be able to move freely.

Place another cup under the entire thing and tape together to form the base of our whirlygig.

Step 4: Cut Some Wind...

Take a cup and slice the top part into six sections.  Cut down about two-thirds of the way.

Splay out the petals.

Bend each petal along the diagonal to create a somewhat airfoil shape of a propeller.

Poke a hole in the center of the bottom of the cup.

Feed the crank wire through.

Bend wire into position and tape to the side of the propeller.

Test to see it is working correctly.  When the propeller is spun, the drive shaft should go up and down.

Note that there can be significant improvement in the design of the blades.  This actually worked well under no-load conditions with a hair dryer as the wind source.  Once the dead weight rest of the stuff was attached, it could not be powered by the limp blades.

Step 5: Go Figure...

The character on top of your whirligig can be anything of your own choosing.

I am illustrating here with someone famous.

Attach an upright stationary portion that is attached to the base.  I used some heavy corrugated box cardboard that is stapled to the lip of the cup.  Attach some side tabs to help fix the center upright piece.

Create your moving part with another piece of stiff cardboard.

The moving part is attached to the central upright at the pivot point by a piece of wire threaded through and bent at each end to lock it in.  There is a lot of play in the two pieces as it is not drawn up tight.

Move mechanism to find the best spot to attach the drive wire.  Cut any excess wire.  The end should then be bent perpendicular in an L-shape and pushed through the moving part.  Bend a loop at the end of the wire to lock it in.

Test the range of motion and adjust accordingly.  You may have to move the pivot point or change where the drive wire will attach.  Enlarge the wire holes so for better movement.

See what you can come up with.  Have fun!

Coffee Cup Challenge

Participated in the
Coffee Cup Challenge