DIY

Hyperbolic Holes

This inexpensive kit available here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Hyperbolic Holes Kit

Hyperbolic Holes: a straight rod, in this case a pencil, glides through a symmetrical pair of curved holes. The design is based on the hyperboloid, the 3D ruled surface traced by an offset rotating diagonal line. This device is sold as an inexpensive kit to assemble yourself, and includes a motor with geared drive and pre-cut pieces. The pencil is my addition- sharpened to just the right size to clear the curved openings.

Centripetal Spheres

Just thread a rubber band through two of these drilled steel balls and you are ready to go! 
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Drilled Spheres 

Centripetal Spheres: two ball bearings connected by a rubber band orbit each other as energy oscillates between elastic potential energy and rotation kinetic energy. Just wind up the rubber band and let go. When the rubber band has unwound the rotational inertia of the bearings winds it back up until it changes direction. The process repeats until the initial energy is dissipated through friction.

Glow Trace Chaotic Pendulum Kit

Get this super nice, affordable, and fun to assemble kit here:
From KiwiCo: BUY NOW: Glow Pendulum Kit

Get amazing quatilty science kits delievered to your home- this glow pendulum is part of the Tinker Crate subscription. 
From KiwiCo: LEARN MORE: Tinker Crate Subscription

Glow Trace Chaotic Pendulum: this fun and amazing DIY kit features a UV diode to trace the intricate path of this double pendulum system on to a phosphorescent screen, revealing the physics of chaotic motion. It’s amazing that such complex motion can arise from a simple assembly of two pendulums, one attached to the end of the other. Chaotic motion, such as that observed here, is characterized by extreme sensitivity to initial starting conditions, tiny differences in how the system is released leads to dramatically different outcomes each time. 

 


Self-Propelled Homopolar Motor on Aluminum Foil Racetrack

I used neodymium disk magnets, small end = 1/2" diameter, Large end = 3/4" diameter. 
From eBay: BUY NOW Disk Magnets for Simple Motor 

Foil Runner Motor assembly diagram: 
Self-Propelled Homopolar Motor on Aluminum Foil Racetrack: A favorite DIY physics toy where disk shaped neodymium magnets supply the static magnetic field for this motor and become the wheels of a very simple vehicle with an AAA battery as the energy source. As soon as both ends make contact with the conducting aluminium foil an electric current will flow which in turn induces a magnetic field underneath the battery assembly. This induced field will then interact with the neodymium magnets on each end causing them to spin- a wonderful example of a motor with minimal components. The racetrack is a cardboard circle from a pizza box covered in kitchen foil.

Super Absorbent Polymer

Get some of these grow-spheres here: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Growing Spheres 

Super Absorbent Polymer: poly-acrylamide polymer crystals are able to absorb up to 200 times their volume of water. Here seven small spheres, approximately 4mm in diameter, were immersed in water for three hours, after which they were slightly more than 23mm across. The final gel sphere is more than 99.5% water- and they bounce! 

Impossible Braid 

Get this nice example of mystery braid here:

From Art of Play: BUY NOW: Impossible Braid Key Fob

Here is a great video on how to make the mystery braid

See other Impossible Objects in my collection. 

Mystery Braid: challenge- how can three strands be braided if both sets of ends are connected? (swipe for reveal) A new addition to my collection of “impossible objects”, this leather key fob is braided from a single piece of leather, constructed by making two parallel slits but not cutting the ends. The solution is well known to those in the field of leatherwork- due to a twist of topology it’s possible to make this braid if the number of left strand over right crossings equals the times the right strand crosses over the left. Four strands braided this way is not mathematically possible, but 3, 5, or any odd number can be done!

 

 


Floating Yen

Aluminium 1 Yen coins are the perfect denisty to float as shown in the video:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: 1-Yen Coins

Floating Yen: the surface tension of water is strong enough to suspend the aluminum coin, and a trapped column of air in a second glass can submerge a portion of the surface with the coin. The 1-Yen coin has just the right mass and density for this demonstration. One of my favorite DIY physics demonstrations.

Tumble Rings

I made this set of tumble rings from reading Martin Gardner's description in his famous mathematical recreations books- highly recommended: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Knots and Borromean Rings by Martin GardnerDescribes the Tumble Rings 

From Amazon: BUY NOW Books on recreational math and puzzles by Martin Gardner Lots of physics and math toys in these pages! 

Tumble Rings: the links in this chain are connected in a special way such that the top ring appears to tumble to the bottom- a compelling illusion! 

Homopolar Motor

Fairly simple to make- here are the inexpensive supplies needed to make a few of these motors. 
AA batteries have a diameter of 14.5 mm, so a bottom magnet with a diameter of 15 mm is just right: 
From eBay: BUY NOW Neodymium Disk Magnet 

Wire that looks and works well is just 10 gauge ground wire. Inexpensive and available at any local hardware store-- or order a small quantity here: 
From eBay: BUY NOW 10 gauge Copper Wire 

Wikipedia has some good details on the physics of homopolar motors 

Homopolar Motor: a minimalist electric motor- battery, wire, and magnet. This type of motor does not need a commutator- the polarity of the electromagnetic coil does not need to reverse. The challenge with this design is balancing the coil to center on the battery as it rotates. A favorite DIY physics toy!


Faraday Train

Here's the parts to make your own: 
From eBay: BUY NOW Neodymium Spheres 15mm 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Bare Copper Wire 10 gauge 

The wire used for the Faraday Train has to be bare- so make sure it does not have any kind of clear coating on it. The solid grounding wire sold at hardware stores works great. 

Here is a nice description of the Faraday Train and the physics of its propulsion

Faraday Train: two magnets, one battery, and a coil of bare copper wire are the simple essence of this self propelled craft. The magnets conduct electricity, thus when put in contact with the coil current will flow creating a solenoidal magnetic field in the vicinity of the battery, which in turn pushes on the magnets at each end of the battery moving the craft along. The spherical neodymium magnets used allows the craft to slide along the coil with minimal friction. 

Electromagnetic Levitation Module

Get this kit here (comes complete as shown in my video):
From engineDIY: BUY NOW: Magnetic Levitation Module

The featured sculture is by Bathsheba Grossman, affordable and beautiful math art available here:
From Etsy: BUY NOW: Soliton Sculpture

Electromagnetic Levitation Module: this engineered control system uses adjustable electromagnets (four copper coils) and and two Hall effect magnetic field sensors (held firm embedded in white silicone) to levitate an 5cm diameter neodymium magnet platform about 3 cm in mid-air. A feedback loop informed by the Hall effect sensors allows fine tuning of the magnetic field to exactly balance the pull of gravity, and is powered by a standard USB connection. The platform also rotates, perfect for showcasing one of my metal 3D printed mathematical sculptures by Bathsheba Grossman.

Electric Motor Build

Get an easy to assemble kit here (or just buy the replacement wire to build your own like in the video): 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Simplest Motor Kit 

Electric Motor Build: One of the most important inventions consists of only three basic components as shown here: coil, magnet, and a battery with lead wire posts. The wire of the spinning coil has an insulating coating on it- and this coating is carefully scrapped off one side of the thin wire on each end. When current passes through the coil it becomes an electromagnet and the permanent magnet repels it making it spin- as it turns the current goes on and off depending on if the copper wire posts are in contact with the bare wire side (current on) or the part of the wire with the insulating coating intact (current off). When the current is off momentum keeps the rotation going until the next push. The physics of converting electric energy to rotational kinetic energy- and a fun DIY project! 


Mobius Zipper

If you like this kind of math exploration I highly recommend this book by Matt Parker: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW 
Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension 


... and any of the books by Martin Gardner 
 
From Amazon: BUY NOW 
Recreational Math Books 

The parts to make this are inexpensive- a great craft for kids. Sew on the velcro dots for best results:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Nylon Zippers, Velcro Dots

Möbius Zipper: exploring topology with a bisecting strip (a zipper with velcro ends). 0 twists creates a cylinder which simply gives two cylinders when split, ½ twist creates a Möbius strip- splitting down the center produces one long loop with with two full twists, 1 twist in a loop-splitting in half produces two interlocked Möbius loops! Just some of the curious properties concerning the Möbius strip, an unorientable, one sided surface, with only one boundary. 

Magnetic Suspension Sculpture

The DIY version can be assemebled with these parts. Steel wire of guage 10 or 12 should work well. 

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Quilting Hoop, Neodyumium Magnet, Steel Wire

Magnetic Hoops Suspension Sculpture: Steel circles are suspended by a magnet (black sphere) and held down to the base by a thin thread. The tops of the steel hoops, being ferromagnetic, become a north pole in the presence of the south pole end of the black magnet, so they are attracted to the black magnet, but repel each other. Made by Rathcon Inc. in 1970. Swipe to see my DIY version made from a quilting hoop, neodymium magnets, and some bailing wire. 

Electric Motor

Get this easy to assemble kit here: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Simplest Motor Kit 

Electric Motor: in its simplest form!- coil, magnet, and battery. The wire of the coil has an insulating coating- and this coating is carefully scrapped off one side on each end. When current passes through the coil it becomes an electromagnet and the permanent magnet repels it making it spin- as it turns the currents goes on and off depending if the copper posts are in contact with the bare wire (current on) or the still insulated wire (current off). I have motors with fewer parts- but they operate on more complex principles.


Centripetal Kinetic Toy

This "iBall" desk toy is no longer in producltion. Howerver, a similar version of this toy can be made from these components:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: two piece acrylic shell

From Amazon: BUY NOW: 1/4 inch ball bearings

Centripetal Kinetic Toy: seven rolling steel balls hug to the inside of the acrylic sphere given sufficient velocity. Here the balls are launched such that their orbits are in the same plane, and due to their angular momentum (and a torque due to gravity) the plane of rotation precesses like the axis of a spinning top until friction slows them down. This toy was made in 2007 (sadly no longer in production) and marketed under the name "iBall". 

Popsicle Stick Bomb

Craft sticke work great:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Stick Bomb Supplies

Amazingly: There is a Wikipedia entry on Stick Bombs and their physics

Popsicle Stick Bomb: a form of simple tensegrity, the elastic potential energy of the bent sticks is dramatically released under application of a slight concussive force such as an impact with a table top- shown here in forward and backward slow motion (swipe to see three more explosions). Shown here is one of the simplest constructions with 5 flat sticks woven into a spring-loaded configuration held in place by friction and tension induced by the bending of the wood. A nice demonstration of energy conversion- potential to kinetic.

Micro Hoverboard

If you want to make one of these you will need: 
1) some pyrolytic graphite (which can easily be sliced and carved): 
From eBay: BUY NOW Pyrolytic Graphite 
2) some neodymium magnets: the racetrack magnets are a bit pricey though! 
From eBay: BUY NOW Diamagnetic Levitation Kit
3) shrink and print this image on medium weight paper, 
and 4) cut and assemble! 

Micro-Hoverboard: diamagnetic levitation technology- although Marty McFly would have to be three inches tall to ride this hoverboard. Made from printed paper and pyrolytic graphite with concentric circular neodymium magnet array. The magnetic rings alternate between north and south magnetic poles in just the right way to trap this special type of graphite. Pyrolytic graphite has strong diamagnetic properties such that it develops an opposite (but weak)magnetic field when in the presence of a magnetic field from another source. Swipe to see the graphite pieces levitating individually.