3Doodled Tops (Force & Motion)

Time Required: Two 45-60 minute sessions
Skill Level: Intermediate
Recommended Grades: 3rd to 5th

In this activity, students will work in pairs to design and construct a top with a 3Doodler. A top must spin for, at least, 10 seconds within a 30. x 30 cm. space before dropping. Students will test and retest their designs to make adjustments before entering a class competition.

The top that spins the longest amount of time over three attempts is the winner!

Note: Any links outside of the3doodler.com are optional resources. We can’t ensure their upkeep or accuracy.

Lesson Plan


Step 1

Drill or cut a small hole through each lid. The crown (the stick you hold to turn a top) will go through this hole.
Optional: Watch videos to familiarize students with different types of tops:
Spinning Top Tutorial
About Spin Tops

Step 2

Share the goal: To create a twirl top that spins for, at least, 10 seconds within a 30 x 30 cm. space.

Step 3

Review the basic parts of a top: crown, shoulder, body and point.

Step 4

Discuss "torque" as the force which sets the top in motion.

Step 5

Demonstrate how to create a top using a selected lid. Test your top. Make adjustments.

Step 6

Note that testing is an important part of design. Prompt students to share ways to improve designs.
*Adding and adjusting weights for balance, adjusting or sanding the point, adjusting the length or the crown and/or tip. Students can either create their own crown and point using the 3Doodler or use a recycled element as a point, e.g., screw, pencil point, crayon point, coffee stirrer, etc.

Step 7

Divide students into groups of 2-3. Each group selects a lid. Instruct students to draw a plan for their top. Include the materials needed. Each part of the top should be labeled.

Step 8

After approving students' plans, hand out materials. Circle to assist and assess.

Step 9

Hand out stopwatches for students to test their tops.

Step 10

Encourage students to make adjustments where needed.

Wrap Up

Students share their top designs and the process. Students review the tops of other pairs and offer feedback. Students compete with tops and record their top's time over 3 attempts. The highest recorded time total wins. Students research the Gyroscope effect, potential and kinetic energy,


Evaluate students' assessments of their design-build-test cyclic process.

Possible Extensions

Students write an informative paper about how engineering is part of the top industry. Students design a throwing top using 3Doodler, recycled materials and string.


How Does a Spinning Top Work? (Good resource for teacher):
Reflections for Top-Designers (1 per group):

Reflections for Top-Designers

Names of Top-Designers_______________________________________

Testing Rounds / Time Spun within 30 x 30 cm space in seconds / Time Spun in Total in seconds
Test 1

Test 2

Test 3

Total Time __________


1. What was the most challenging part of designing a top?

2. What was something interesting that you learned during the process?

3. Did you need to make any changes to your group's original design? Explain.

4. Were there any materials that we did not have in our classroom that would have improved the design and effectiveness of your top? If so, please, share.

4. What did you observe other groups doing that you'd like to try next time?

5. How did you overcome difficulties during the process?

6. Share a mistake you made and how you learned from it.

7. Observe and describe how your top looked shortly before it fell.

8. What were some things that your group did well when working together?

9. What are some things you could do next time to work together better?

10. How do friction and gravity affect your top? Explain.


Twirling top - A twirling top is spun by manually twisting the crown.
A dreidel is a common example of a twirling top.

Supported top – A top which is spun with a string while the top is held upright by a support.

Whip top - A whip top is set into motion and kept spinning by whipping it with a whip.

Throwing top - A throwing top has a string wrapped around its body which is attached to a stick. When the top is thrown causing the string to be rapidly released from its body, the top spins.

Pump top - A pump top has a crown that is pushed down or pumped several times to create the spin.


  • gyroscopic effect - the difficulty to change a spinning object's axis of rotation due to forces of physics.

  • kinetic energy - energy of an object in motion, due to motion.

  • potential energy - the energy possessed by a body by virtue of its position relative to others, stresses within itself, electric charge, and other factors.

  • torque - a twisting force.

Educational Standards

Common Core

Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

In This Lesson

Students will work in small groups to brainstorm, design and create a top.

Common Core

Pose and respond to specific questions to clarify or follow up on information, and make comments that contribute to the discussion and link to the remarks of others.

In This Lesson

Each group must respond to questions to clarify or follow up on information about the process of designing a topt. Students must ask specific and relevant questions about other group's tops.

Common Core

Solve problems involving measurement

In This Lesson

Students will use measurement to design tops and to keep the top within the measured testing area, i.e., 30 x 30 cm.

Next Gen Science

Engineering Design Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

In This Lesson

Students will recognize the goal/problem of this task and meet specified criteria to solve this problem.

Next Gen Science

Engineering Design Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

In This Lesson

Students will consider various designs, test and make adjustments to solve a problem, i.e., create the longest spinning top.

Next Gen Science

Engineering Design Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.

In This Lesson

Students will test their tops and make adjustments to identify aspects of design that can improve the duration of the spin.

CS Teachers

Plan and create a design document to illustrate thoughts, ideas, and stories in a sequential (step-by-step) manner (e.g., story map, storyboard, sequential graphic organizer).

In This Lesson

Students will brainstorm ideas and sketch a design to illustrate their group's thoughts and ideas.

CS Teachers

Decompose (break down) a larger problem into smaller sub-problems with teacher guidance or independently.

In This Lesson

Students will break down the process into brainstorming, designing, building, testing, presenting to group.


Use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.

In This Lesson

Students will use the 3Doodler to construct the longest spinning top.


Exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.

In This Lesson

Students will demonstrate willingness and competency within an open-ended task with more than one possible outcome.


Create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.

In This Lesson

Students will create original top-designs from recycled materials and the 3Doodler.


Use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints.

In This Lesson

Students will seek feedback from peers before and during design phase of this project.

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