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ExhibitsParabolic Spinners
Paul Orselli: Parabolic Spinners

After many years in the museum field, I have done everything from firing a cannon dressed as a Civil War soldier to extracting sodium polyacrylate from disposable diapers for chemistry demos. I have been fortunate to work at some of the "A List" institutions in the field (Acton, Austin, Ann Arbor—maybe Anchorage or Adelaide next!). Working at smaller institutions has fostered my desire to create exhibit components inexpensively. Meeting like-minded people at ASTC conferences helped plant the seeds for the development of the Cheapbook: A Compendium of Inexpensive Exhibit Ideas series, available through ASTC Publications. To start things off, I contributed this idea for a Parabolic Spinner exhibit, which came out of my work at the Discovery Museums of Acton, Massachusetts.

Parabolic Spinners

visitor at parabolic spinners exhibitAbout Parabolic Spinners
This mesmerizing component comes from experiments in Acton with a turntable and a bottle of cooking oil. Cooking oil has a perfect clarity and viscosity to create a neat paraboloid. While prototyping, visitors kept asking, "What's the fluid?" So, the final version was a cooking oil bottle epoxied to the turntable base!

Materials
Spinning turntable
Variety of plastic containers
Variety of fluids (oil, water, corn syrup, etc.)
Epoxy cement


diagram of parabolic spinnersProcedure


Fill a plastic container about half full with your chosen liquid. Now, completely seal the container with epoxy and let dry. Find the center point of both the turntable and the bottom of the surface of your container and clearly mark them. Finally, epoxy the container to the turntable , making sure the center points are aligned. When all parts are dry, start spinning!

Note
2-ton epoxy seems to provide the best results.

To purchase the Cheapbooks contact pubs@astc.org.

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