Affordable materials for geoscience teaching demonstrations

DIYnamics at UCLA Exploring Your Universe 2018

Norris helping visitors build their own motors

Norris helps visitors at EYU build their very own DIYnamics motors. Over the course of the roughly 5 hour event, dozens of kids successfully built their own, usually with very little help from us required.

On November 4, 2018, the DIYnamics team made a triumphant return to the Exploring Your Universe (EYU) science fair held every fall at UCLA. Old-timers Spencer and Norris and newcomers Calvin and Santiago had a blast spending the day helping kids and their families learn about rotating fluids using the DIYnamics materials.

Calvin using a spinning top to teach about rotation

Calvin using a spinning top to help these EYU visitors get a more intuitive feel for why rotation effects fluids like water and air. Just like a top stays upright if its spinning but falls over if it’s stationary, motions within rotating fluids get aligned with the rotation axis, while non-rotating fluids move in all directions.

Like our inaugural appearance at EYU in 2017, we had three different sections of our booth, all of them going simultaneously.

  1. Build your own DIYnamics motor: Using the DIYnamics official printed instructions, visitors got to assemble their own DIYnamics motors. Norris kept watch and helped out when necessary, but mostly kids were able to build them start-to-finish on their own!
  2. Rotating vs. non-rotating tanks: Calvin and Santiago led our classic demonstration comparing how dye behaves when dropped into a rotating tank vs. a non-rotating one. They also made great use of spinning tops to illustrate how rotation makes things (including fluids) stand up straight.
  3. Winter storms using the big square tank: Once every hour, Spencer performed the demonstration of “baroclinic instability” using a bigger tank —- the same one that we used to create our YouTube videos on the same topic. With a paint can filled with ice in the middle, water gets cooled in the middle of the tank compared to the outer edges. This temperature contrast combined with rotation gives rise to beautiful swirling eddies that act to transfer heat from the warm section to the cold section…just like the big winter storms in Earth’s atmosphere!

Santiago and Calvin manning our booth

Calvin and Santiago (both facing toward the camera; Santiago on the right) manning the DIYnamics booth. Calvin and Santiago were first-time DIYnamics volunteers, and they did an amazing job! Especially given that we didn’t have as many people this year (only 4 total). Thanks guys!

EYU also marked the debut of our amazing new LEGO-based DIYnamics logo (image below). How cool is that?

Our awesome new LEGO-based logo

Our awesome new LEGO-based DIYnamics logo. We’re definitely going to start using this on the website and everywhere else we can! Thanks to Jon Aurnou for the idea, and Norris for actually building it.

A huge thanks to the EYU organizers and volunteers, the UCLA Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences staff who helped us setup, Jon Aurnou and the rest of the SPINLab for help (and including us in their pizza order!), and of course to the wonderful kids and parents who came to our booth. See you in 2019 for EYU Round 3!