Introduction: Ripp'n Wheel'n Spin'n Wheel for the Classroom

About: Hey there! My name is Chris and I live in Massachusetts. I have been a teacher since 2006 and love the fact that I have the opportunity to bring real-world, hands-on skills to my students. I love learning new …

I teach middle school science and often try to incorporate as much interactive and hands-on activities as possible. Instead of typical review sheets and Q&A sessions prior to assessments I like to use a review game I created called "Penny Slide". The concept is simple. You create a paper game board with images pertaining to the subject matter (i.e. mitochondria, nucleus, DNA, etc...). You tape the front edge down of the game board and students slide a penny across the table trying to land on the images. If they land on an image they have to answer a card pertaining to that specific image. The kids love this game but the only problem is that about half of them really struggle with sliding the penny across the table (middle school dexterity isn't really the best with a lot of kids).

Enter the spinning wheel! I don't know a soul who doesn't love the massive spinning wheel if they have watched The Price is Right. Not to mention the spinning wheel on Wheel of Fortune or any other spinning wheel at a fair. I decided that a simple spinning wheel would fit the bill perfectly for our game and there wouldn't be pennies flying off of tables and hopefully more reviewing going on. I also had plans on using the wheel as a method to show a group's progress / behavior (a green section to show all is good, a yellow section to show that the group has been warned, and a red section to show that the group now must remain silent).

I decided to use inexpensive materials and some recycled goods to build them and all in all the whole process took only a few hours and some basic woodworking skills.

Step 1: Going in Circles - Cutting Out the Spinner

All of the wood I used to build the spinners is 3/4" Eastern White Pine. I used mostly scrap pieces I had around my shop.

I use a simple circle cutting sled for my bandsaw. Basically a sheet of plywood with a maple runner that fits into the groove on the bandsaw's table. I then have a series of holes drilled that accepts a roofing nail. I drill a hole in the center of a piece of square stock adjust the location of the nail / pivot point so that it equals half the diameter of my circle and then place the square piece of wood on the nail. Push the square forward until the center of the soon-to-be circle is aligned with the front edge of your bandsaw blade and then spin the wood on the nail. I needed to make eight of these (one for each table). I cut my circle to 6-1/4" diameter from a piece of 6-1/2" wide stock. After cutting my eight pieces of wood I marked the center with an "X". Leave this X in place so that you can mark the pie slices later on (see the last picture in this step).

Step 2: The Upright Support

This piece will support the spinning wheel. I cut mine 5-1/2" wide and 6-1/2" tall. The top flat piece is about 1-1/2" wide. I also drilled a hole about 1-1/4" down from the top where the bolt will pass through.

Step 3: The Spinner Base

The base is 5-1/2" x 5-1/2" with a dado directly down the center of it that will accept the 3/4" pine. I made the dado 3/8" deep.

Step 4: Mark Out Your Pie

Extend the "X" originally made at the center of your circle to mark the center so that the marks go to the edge of the circle. Then measure between two of the terminating points at the edge of the circle and find the center for the next line and make a mark. Line up your ruler with the center hole and this point and draw your next line. Do this one more time and you have eight pie slices. Of course you can go further and make it filled with more pie slices or differently sized ones. I planned on using finish nails to mark boundaries between pie slices, so I pre-drilled the holes using a small drill press with a Dremel (my other drill press is too big for hold the right sized drill bit). Drill the hole about a 1/4" from the bottom of the circle but don't put the nails in yet.

Step 5: Drilling Holes for the Bearings

I ordered bearings to use with the wheels. They were about 0.60 each and I used two per spinner. The bearings I bought had an interior dimension of 3/8" and an exterior dimension of 7/8". I used a 7/8" forstner bit to drill a 1/4" deep hole on both the front and back of the spinner wheel. I then used a 1/2" bit to drill a hole through through the center of the spinner so that there would be no interference with the bearings movement.

Step 6: Adding the Pegs and Making the Mark

After sanding the spinners I used a sharpie to go over the pencil lines and then put numbers in the bottom of each pie slice. I left plenty of room to add colors and other things to the wheels and I might even use a velcro disc system I have come up with.

Then I nailed in the finish nails. Make sure they don't go through the bottom of the spinner.

Step 7: Making the Pointer Support

I used an "L" shaped piece of wood to support the little piece of plastic used to point at the pie slice the spinner is spun to. The pictures show the cutting progression nicely so that you can save some wood. At the end I cut one side of the "L" down the middle to make a spliced area for the plastic clicker. I then drilled a hole so that I could secure it to the upright of the spinner with a screw.

Step 8: Glue the Base and Upright Together

Make sure that you have the correct diameter hole drilled in your upright to accept the bolt you are going to use to put the whole thing together. Also make sure everything is sanded to your liking. Mine is being used in a classroom with middle school kids so I made sure it was smooth but I didn't go crazy. I used hot glue to affix the upright support to the base.

Step 9: Degrease the Bearings and Put the Spinner and Base Together

I used some mineral spirits to degrease the bearings and make them spin a bit freer (they really are meant for skateboards or the like so this is a pretty light application for them). Put one bearing into the front of the spinner and one into the back, pass a 3/8" diameter x 2" long bolt through the front of the spinner and put two washers between the bearing and the upright and then push the bolt into the upright hole. Finally, use a nut to affix the wheel to the upright.

Step 10: Add the Picker Clicker

I used a 1-3/8" screw to affix the pointer support to the upright (I also used a couple of dabs of hot glue). To make the little pointer I used a plastic container and cut out the little triangles. I also use a small section of the top of the container to add some additional pressure so that when I pass them through the slit in the pointer support I have enough friction to hold it in place.

Step 11: Done... and Bit of Balance

For the most part the spinners worked great. You need to loosen and tighten the nut on the back a bit to adjust how smoothly it spins, but other than that they spun beautifully. There were a couple that seemed to have an affinity for a specific number and I attributed that to the density of the wood in certain areas being higher (plywood probably would have helped avoid that problem). A relatively easy fix I came up with is using some push tacks in edge of the wheel that is lighter. This worked really well and I am looking forward to using these in the classroom!

Step 12: Using the Spinners in Class

I ended up adding colored dot stickers to each pie slice further differentiating them for games and activities. Later down the road I still might do the velcro disc idea, but for now this works great. We had our first trial run with the spinners in class yesterday and the kids loved it! We did a review game for human body systems, which had six sets of different cards, neatly corresponding to numbers one through six on the wheel. We used number seven as a "you choose" option and number eight for the bonus cards. I am including a link to my game cards if you are interested to see how it is set up. This makes for a fun, fast-paced review game for any material and nearly any age student.