Pop Bottle Whirligig

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Learn about friction and kinetic energy with this cool spinning toy. The designer of this activity, an artist named Vollis Simpson, made his whirligig from old beer cans, but we can make ours out of plastic soda bottles. This activity has step-by-step photo instructions, along with links to let you make a virtual visit to Vollis's farm and sculpture park.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 11

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • 4 pop bottles
  • scissors
  • permanent markers
  • coat hanger
  • plyers
  • nail
  • candle


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Aerospace Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
      • Rotation Motion

Informal Categories

  • Arts and Crafts
  • Outdoor Activity
  • Toys


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


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, Science Museum of Minnesota, 1995

Funding Sources:

  • Unisys
  • Science Learning Network
  • National Science Foundation