Introduction: An Educational Fidget Spinner - Finally!
As an Electronics Professor here at ECPI University - I'm not a huge fan of Fidget Spinners. I am, however, a huge fan of my students. Since a good number of my students are drawn towards the fad of Fidget Spinners, I felt I had to find a way to weave them into my classes.
In this "instructables" lesson, I will teach you how to create a Fidget Spinner that is educational (finally), and not just a distraction in class.
You will see that the process is quick and simple. Also, it is easy to customize for different classes, lesson plans, and modalities (each student gets to spin it and randomly stop on one of the entries written around the edge - then they can be asked to write, read aloud, solve, convert, discuss, etc. that entry).
Step 1: Step 1: the General Design
These devilish little things in the first picture - skateboard bearings - are the center of nearly every Fidget Spinner. You can buy them inexpensively online and at many local retail outlets. Just Google "skateboard bearings" and voila! Lots of choices, many for less than $1 each when you buy a pack of 8.
The general design is extremely simple:
It is a circle with a skateboard bearing in the center. The circle is divided into pie slices. Each pie slice contains a reference entry for the lesson you plan to teach. The photos show the following design steps, in order...
- Make sure you know the size of the skateboard bearings you bought. They are standard sizes, but a ruler or other measuring device can help you double check. Mine are 0.865" (inches) in diameter.
- Draw the circle you plan to use as your general design. This way you can see that it can comfortably fit in the hands of your students - they want to only touch the skateboard bearing with their index finger and thumb, and the rest of the Fidget Spinner should be able to spin freely (not rub against their palm, etc.). My students are adults so I choose a 4 inch diameter.
- Make a note of your measurements on a roughly 1:1 scale (and poorly drawn) hand sketch, so you can get a feel for the amount of letters you can fit in a pie slice.
Remember - any lesson that has a table of anywhere between 4 to 20 short text entries that students must learn - can be easily made into a Fidget Spinner.
As an example, I want to teach students how to convert a 4 digit Binary number into Decimal and/or Hexadecimal, and back again. Whether or not that last sentence makes sense to you - here is the table with 16 total entries that I want them to learn:
0000 in Binary = 0 in Decimal = 0 in Hexadecimal
0001 in Binary = 1 in Decimal = 1 in Hexadecimal
... (a bunch more entries)
1111 in Binary = 15 in Decimal = F in Hexadecimal
Step 2: Step 2: Begin Your 3D Design
Next, we need to turn the hand drawn picture into a design that can be sent to a 3D printer, or a local 3D printing service (such as at many public libraries, or the many online services such as Shapeways.com and many others).
To do this, you can use many PC software programs, such as the friendly and free for educators Fusion360 from AutoDesk.com. Instead of Fusion360, I will use an online website that is popular with younger folks (no PC software needed, and it works with any device that has a browser). That website is Tinkercad.com.
You do need to create an account on tinkercad.com before you can begin, but this process is quick, simple, and self explanatory. It is within this account that we will make our design (as seen in this first photo).
Once you have an account, you can start a new design, which looks like a blank sheet of graph paper. Into that design I will add that 4 inch diameter disk using the Orange "Tube" button in "Basic Shapes."
You can see where I've entered the Radius of 2" to get the desired 4" Diameter disk. Also, since my lesson plan's table has 16 entries, I will make that disk have 16 sides in the menu item of the same name.
Step 3: Step 3: Adding the First Row of Text
The Tinkercad interface is very quick to learn, so you probably would have guessed all of these steps on your own, but at the risk of being too detailed - here goes...
To add text, you click on the Red "Text" button, also found under "Basic Shapes." A menu box opens up, along with a live version of your text. In that menu box you can change the size of the text, and the actual message you want to display (I want to display four zeroes in a row).
I also wanted to tilt the text a bit, to line up with that pie slice where it belongs. You do that by dragging the curved arrow indicator next to the dotted line box that outlines the text in your design.
Finally, I want to drag and drop the text in the correct pie slice.
Step 4: Step 4: Adding Remaining Rows of Text to That Pie Slice
I decided to cut and paste the first row of text over and over again, to get the additional rows of text I needed. The reason I decided to do this was that I would then know they were all tilted the same way, but I could size them individually. (I'm still not sure if this was the best way to go, and I'm open to suggestions to improve my technique).
Anyway... I selected the four zeroes text, hit Cntrl-C to copy, and then hit Cntrl-V to paste. After that, I dragged it to the correct position, and changed the text from "0000" to "0 D" as shorthand for "Zero in Decimal."
Finally, I repeated the process for the third row of text in that pie slice, creating the text "0 H" which is shorthand for "Zero in Hexadecimal."
Step 5: Step 5: Adding the Remaining Pie Slices
Adding the remaining pie slices is simple.
First I select all three rows of text from an existing pie slice (to select more than one object, click on the first object, then hold the Shift key as you click on subsequent objects).
Then I copy and paste (Cntrl-C, then Cntrl-V), and tilt to the correct angle (drag and drop the curved arrow near the dotted line boundary box).
Finally I drag and drop them in the new pie slice, and one by one, I change their text to the appropriate table entry.
This gets repeated over and over again, until all of the pie slices are done (sixteen slices in the case of this particular lesson plan).
Remember, you can zoom in and out of the drawing by turning the wheel of your mouse, and you can move around in your drawing by clicking down on that same wheel and moving your mouse.
Step 6: Step 6: Finish Your Design and Prepare It for 3D Printing
I originally used the "Tube Basic Shape" for the design, and that had a limitation on the size of the hole, so I simply added another tube on top of the existing 4" diameter tube.
As you can see, I chose a radius of 1.43 inches, with a wall thickness of 0.97. That's because I wanted the center hole to be about .92 inches across - a little bit bigger than my 0.865 inch skateboard bearing. Hole radius =1.43 - 0.97 = 0.46 inches - so the hole diameter is 2 x 0.46 = 0.92 inches.
I had to look at it from different angles to make sure the text was aesthetically pleasing and readable, and that the two "Tubes" were concentric. Dragging and dropping with the mouse fixed everything just the way I wanted. Every action was very easy to perform in the Tinkercad user interface.
No wonder my students love to use this 3D Design website!
Finally, Tinkercad makes it easy to download the design in a file format you need for your desired 3D printer. Most printers use the .STL format, so that's the one I selected here.
Step 7: Step 7: Now You Try It!
I plan to use one Fidget Spinner in a classroom. Each student spins it, and wherever it stops, that's the number (Binary, Decimal, or Hexadecimal) they must write on the board. Another student must convert to the other two formats, and then gets a chance at spinning.
As I say in all my classes, "Now you try it!"
Get an account on www.tinkercad.com and start tinkering!
P.S. Here are some things I would do differently as improvements:
- I would use a color other than black for the PLA plastic used to print the Fidget Spinner. I was thinking I might want to paint the words for contrast, and that's harder to do with a dark colored plastic.
- I would choose a lesson that had fewer table entries (pie slices) than 16. This would let me have a larger font for the text.
- I would make the center hole smaller than 0.92 inches. I wanted to make it a bit big (because it's easier to add a paper ring to tighten the bearing in the hole, than it is to carve away plastic) but even so, I think it was too loose. Maybe 0.88 inches for a 0.865 diameter skateboard bearing.