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LMS students make their own fidget spinners

posted May 31, 2017, 10:51 AM by Cheryl Shuffler

Students at Liberty Middle School are getting into the latest fad: fidget spinners. But instead of just fidgeting with and endlessly spinning these hand-held toys, the students are actually incorporating hands-on learning to make them. Liberty Project Lead the Way teacher Clay Nelson said he decided to design his own version of the fidget spinner and recruit students to help assemble them.

He said, “I saw that these fidget spinners were catching on at school, and I wanted to ride the wave while it was still here and make some money for my club while I had the ability to.” 

A fidget spinner is three-pronged device with a ball bearing in the center. Nelson explains how it works, “The person using the spinner needs to put their thumb and index finger, or middle finger on the either side of the middle part of the spinner, the ball bearing part. Once the arms are free from obstruction, the spinner will freely spin for a duration once pushed, some I've heard can go up to three minutes of spin time.”

Nelson’s students are printing the spinners on a 3D printer, cleaning them up, assembling the bearings and performing quality control on each one by testing them to make sure they work.

“It takes about two to three hours to print each spinner,” Nelson said. “Once they are done printing, they are slightly rough and the pieces don't always perfectly fit into the holes created by the printer due to conversions. The students sand these down by hand, knocking any burs and blemishes down. After this, they place the middle bearing in, plus three individually cut pieces of steel, which were cut from cold rolled steel into the spinner frame. The only part of this which is ordered is the bearing; only one goes into each spinner.”

Liberty’s student-made spinners were available for sell at Friday night’s TGIF special “Family Night” concert in downtown Morganton with the proceeds going back into to the Liberty Technology Student Association to help create more cool stuff.

Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Larry Putnam started the push with 3D printers four years ago and now they are scattered throughout the district. Putnam is always looking for the next new. He said, “Currently, we are waiting on the new WAZER, which is a water laser jet, and the Glowforge 3D printer, which also is a laser printer.”

As for the fidget spinners, they were initially created for people with attention deficit disorders, autism or anxiety and just this year have gained popularity in schools. Some say the fidgeting helps release nervous energy and relieve stress. Nelson said, “My dad asked me what it was, and I told him that it was pretty much the equivalent of tapping your foot, but it's in your hands.” Some schools across the country have deemed the spinners a distraction and banned them. Others, like Liberty, are turning them into lessons in physics, inertia and entrepreneurship.

Nelson said, “I know there is a lot of controversy with these spinners being in school, and people can say what they want about them, but I truly believe that these toys have sparked an ingenuity in students that we have not seen in the recent past. Students are coming to my room with their own homemade spinners, trying to fix them and also wanting to create different designs. I can't remember the last time I've seen a vast majority of students tinkering, taking things apart and putting them back together. This spinner fad is, in this regard, giving students a great outlet to finally express their creativity with their hands. I absolutely love it.”