Affordable materials for geoscience teaching demonstrations

What is DIYnamics?

Schematic showing relationship between rotating Earth and rotating tank of water

Our mission: expand and improve teaching of geophysical fluid dynamics (GFD) at all age levels

What is “geophysical fluid dynamics”? Let’s break it into pieces:

  • Geo”: Earth
  • Physical”: physics
  • Fluid”: liquids and gases
  • Dynamics”: how things move around

So GFD = the physics of fluid motions on Earth and other planets. The fluids we’re most interested are the air in the atmosphere, the water in the ocean, and the liquids within a planet’s interior.

Our tool: affordable, accessible rotating tank-based teaching

It turns out that the rotation of the Earth is extremely important for these fluid motions. Fortunately, as the schematic at the top of this page illustrates, we can model Earth’s atmosphere (and ocean, and interior) using a spinning tank of water. So DIYnamics develops cheap and effective tank platforms and provides information both on how to build them and on how to use them as effective teaching tools.

Want to learn more about these materials? Visit our pages on the DIYnamics rotating table here and on teaching with them here.

Our outreach events: taking the DIYnamics rotating table into real classrooms

We have visited several schools in the Los Angeles area and taught students about the use of models in scientific research. We used an assortment of rotating tanks (from our large “White Whale” to the main DIYnamics rotating table).

Visit our Events page to learn more about these events, and check out our blog for summaries and pictures of past events.

DIYnamics history

DIYnamics was initiated by a team of professors, postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduate students at UCLA, all in either the Departments of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences, or Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. One of us (Jon Aurnou) had been using traditional rotating tank platforms and vinyl record players to perform demonstrations for several years and had been looking for a cheaper, more portable alternative. In the 2016 spring term, a group of three undergraduates led by Jon developed an initial prototype of the DIYnamics table made primarily of wood and powered by a small motor connected to an Arduino.

In early 2017, one of us (Norris Khoo) realized that the same functionality could be acquired with essentially what became the final design: a lazy susan driven by a LEGO Power Functions motor. The name “DIYnamics” was chosen at some point in the first half of 2017.

Want to learn more about who we are and the help we’ve gotten? Visit our Team and Acknowledgments pages.