Mini Zoetrope

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In this activity (posted on March 27, 2011), learners follow the steps to construct a mini zoetrope, a device that produces an illusion of action from a rapid succession of static pictures. First, learners use relatively simple materials and tools to assemble the hand-held zoetrope device. Then, learners draw a progressively changing image in each frame of an animation strip, insert it into their zoetrope, slowly spin the chopstick handle, and watch as their drawings appear to come to life! The "Things to do and notice" section of this resource includes information about how zoetropes work, how to substitute 3D materials (like wire or clay sculptures) for the 2D animation strips, and how zoetropes were early forms of film technology.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 18

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • 4.5 inch dia. plastic cup
  • large chopstick
  • straws (must be big enough to fit the chopstick, jumbo)
  • electrical tape
  • 2.25 inch dia. foam core washer
  • 10.5 inch x 1 inch paper animation strip (with frame lines every 1.25 inch pre drawn)
  • scissors
  • screw
  • screw driver
  • tape pattern template (if making multiple or working with young children)
  • hot glue gun
  • drawing tools (markers, pens, pencils)


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
    • Technology
      • Information and Communication
  • Life Sciences
    • Human Senses and Perception
      • Vision
      • Perception
  • Physical Sciences
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Light and Optics
    • Motion and Forces
      • Momentum and Velocity
      • Rotation Motion
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Impacts of Technology
      • Technology and History

Informal Categories

  • Arts and Crafts
  • Photography and Film/Video


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Links STEM to other topics of interest such as arts and humanities
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, Oakland Discovery Center, 2011