Paper Plate Education
Activity: Making a Salad Spinner Zoetrope
Making a Salad Spinner Zoetrope
zoetrope-like device can be made from
an inexpensive salad spinner and an old Digistar calendar.
zoetrope is a spinning device that demonstrates how a series of individual
pictures, glimpsed by the eye, are perceived as a fluid motion picture.
To make a salad spinner zoetrope, place electrical tape over the slits of a salad spinner bowl, leaving every third slit open. Around the inside of the bowl affix a series of images that will yield a fluid scene when put in motion. For this conference prototype, I cut out moon phases from an old Digistar calendar (thank you, Evans & Sutherland). Another suitable series could have been taken from the monthly Nimbus-7 satellite images of global ozone levels, except I did not want to trash a good NASA Goddard poster.
the bottom of the bowl to the inverted lid of the spinner.
A big wad of tape on the bottom of the bowl works well during the
trial-and-error stage of zoetrope design if the bowl is centered well.
Later you can screw the bowl to the spinner.
use the zoetrope, grip the salad spinner lid in your left hand.
With your right hand rotate the handle so that the bowl spins
counterclockwise. Hold the zoetrope
level, or slightly tilted to the right, to prevent the screws from clicking
underneath. As you spin the bowl,
look through the slits into the bowl to view the moon rapidly go through its
versions of a zoetrope can be seen at the Great Lakes Science Center in
Cleveland. The following
description accompanies their zoetrope display (written with permission):
picture frame, called a still, is flashed into the eye one at a time.
The spaces between the slits act as shutters, which keep the individual
frames separate. We only see the
image for a fraction of a second, but our eyes and brain hold the image in the
visual cortex, the seeing center of the brain, for a brief period longer.
a changing series of images are seen progressively at a rate faster than the
cortex releases the information, the images blend together and appear to be
and teachers alike can design their own series of drawings to show other
phenomena in motion. Of course, an
activity that makes zoetrope inserts can complement lesson plans in many other
disciplines as well. A sequence of
pictures used for a flip book can also be adapted to a zoetrope.
For ideas on astronomy-related drawings that can be affixed to the inside
wall of the bowl, refer to the book Dynamic
Astronomy by Don Dixon.
To build a paper plate zoetrope, see PBS television's NOVA Online. Also see Georg Egger's designs and examples of zoetropes in action at http://web.inter.nl.net/users/anima/optical/zoetrope/index.htm.
GLPA Proceedings, 1997, p.163.
Copyright ©2012 Chuck Bueter. All rights reserved.