Thursday, October 1, 2020
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Let’s Discover: Un-beelieve-able Balancers

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Find your balance and explore the science of centres of gravity with this fun experiment featuring a homemade balancing toy!

Materials:

    • Jumbo craft stick
    • Pipe cleaner
    • Large washers, equal size/weight

Optional Materials: paper clip, pom-poms, scissors, paper, tape or glue

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Procedure: First, try balancing the craft stick on your finger. You will find you need to put your finger in the middle to keep the stick from falling. This is the stick’s centre of gravity. When you place your finger below the stick’s centre of gravity, its mass on either side is equal and the two sides balance – but it’s still easy to tip over! Let’s make a better balancer:

  • Wrap the middle of the pipe cleaner around the craft stick, about one inch from the end of the stick. Try to make the lengths on either side as equal as possible.
  • Wrap the ends of the pipe cleaner around the washers.
  • Bend the pipe cleaner arms backwards.

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Your experiment is now ready for its balancing act – but it needs some flair! Any lightweight decoration will do: designs with markers, paper cutouts, or small origami figures. At the Discovery Centre, we are buzzing about our new Hive, so we wanted to add our #beelieve bee to our balancer! Make your own with the instructions below – but beeware the stinger!

  • Unbend the long end of the paper clip until it’s straight.
  • Use strong scissors or wire cutters to cut the paper clip just above the bend.
  • Press the unbent end of the paper clip through the small pom pom, then through the others. The bent end will hold the pom poms in place, and the unbent end will go through the last pom pom and form the stinger.
  • If the poking paper clip end is a worry, use glue to fix the pom poms together instead.

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  • Make wings by folding a piece of paper and cutting out a similar pattern to the one below along the folded edge.

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  • Unfold the wings and place them tightly between the two large pom poms, or fix them to the body permanently using tape or glue.
  • Fix the bee to the far end of the craft stick using tape or glue.

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  • Try balancing the end of your craft stick on your fingertip. If it falls, adjust the position of your pipe cleaner arms and washers until it can rest comfortably on the end of your finger.

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The washers hang behind and below the craft stick on either side.

Bending the washers behind the craft stick shifts its balance of mass. This moves the stick’s centre of gravity back from its centre to its edge. Because the weighty washers now hang down below the stick, its centre of gravity is also lower. Objects with a lower centre of gravity are easier to balance.

Explore by changing the position of your washers, or adding more weight to the front or back of your craft stick. Try swapping out your washers for other objects of equal weight.

Using what you’ve discovered about balance and centres of gravity, try making balancers out of other objects, like this example below using a pencil, some wire, and two clothes pins:

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If you’ve enjoyed this creative project, join the Discovery Centre for the Circus of STEAM, a highly interactive featured exhibit featuring S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) related activities, opening May 21st. Opening weekend will include special guests from Halifax Circus and Ray’s Reptiles!

For more great things to discover – visit the Discovery Centre on Barrington Street in Halifax, check out their website  or join them on facebook.