Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology
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How to Collect Data from a Fidget Spinner and a Photogate

Animated GIF of fidget spinner spinning

By Dave Vernier

Like most people, I have heard the buzz about “fidget spinners”, so I could not resist buying one and taking some data with it. Here is a graph of data collected using Logger Pro, LabQuest Mini, and a Photogate.

Graph of a fidget spinner slowing down
A fidget spinner slowing down

To set up the experiment, I placed the fidget spinner on a LabQuest Mini so that the spokes trigger the photogate as the spinner spins.

Experiment setup with Photogate, LabQuest Mini, and fidget spinner

I opened the Pendulum Timer.cmbl file found in Experiment Files > Probes & Sensors > Photogates, which is included with every copy of Logger Pro. I chose the pendulum experiment file because I wanted to measure the time from the leading edge of one of the three spokes to the leading edge of the next spoke and wanted to skip the hole on each spoke.

The graph shows the period, which in this case is proportional to the inverse of the angular speed of the spinner.

Other things you could graph:

  • The angular speed of the spinner as a function of time—use that to determine the angular acceleration of the spinner to estimate how long it will spin from any starting speed.
  • Peak speeds as you start the spinner with different techniques—what technique gives the highest angular velocity?

There are lots of good discussion of the science of fidget spinners on the internet. Here are two articles by Rhett Allain, author of Geek Physics, and a 3D-printed photogate mount Steve Dickie designed for collecting data from fidget spinners.

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