Make a balance sculpture and learn about physics and the center of gravity!
When I was a kid, my brother and I had a favorite game called “Don’t Tip the Waiter.” The object of the game was to balance as many dishes on the waiter’s hand without tipping him over. I have no idea where that game ended up but we LOVED it! And I didn’t even realize how much we were learning about physics while we played!
In today’s project we are going to make a sculpture out of recycled materials and use it to gain an understanding of balance.
Balance Sculpture Materials
- Paper Towel Tube
- 12” Bamboo Skewers (snip off sharp ends and cut some of the skewers in half)
- Pipe Cleaners (cut into shorter pieces)
- Glue or Hot Glue Gun/Glue
- Paint & Paintbrush (optional)
Time needed: 15 minutes.
Make a balance sculpture out of recycled materials!
- Prepare the pieces
Cut the cardboard into different basic shapes such as squares triangles and rectangles.
- Optional: Paint!
Paint the shapes & let dry.
- Prepare the Tube
Flatten one end of the paper towel tube and staple to hold closed. Cut a small v-shaped notch in the center of the flattened end.
- Glue Tube in Place
Glue the open end of the paper towel tube to a 5” square piece of cardboard. Optional: Once the glue is dry, paint the tube and cardboard base. Let dry.
- Gather sculpture materials
Collect your base, pipe cleaners, cardboard shapes and beads
- Start “sculpting”
Thread two cardboard shapes onto a long skewer (through the corrugations) placing them on either end of the skewer. Try to balance the skewer and shapes on the tube base.
- Continue adding shapes
Continue adding cardboard shapes and the shorter skewers to either side of the long skewer. Use tape if necessary to hold the shapes in place.
- Add flair!
Thread beads onto the pipe cleaners and use the pipe cleaners to connect the cardboard shapes together.
- Make a small notch in the center of the skewer to help it catch on the cardboard.
- Test out the sculpture as you add shapes and beads. It will need to be adjusted to make it balance. Be patient and keep testing. There is the perfect balance point; you just have to find it!
- If any large components fall of the skewer tape them into place.
- Avoid placing anything near the center of the skewer so the shapes don’t hit the base tube.
Let’s Talks STEAM
As you create your sculpture and balance the components, you are learning about the following physics concepts:
Balance Balance is the even distribution of weight, allowing an object to remain upright.
Center of gravity Gravity is the force that pulls objects towards the earth’s center. It’s the force that keeps us on the ground. The center of gravity is the point in which the weight of an object or body is perfectly balanced so that the object will not fall over.
Lever A lever is a simple machine that consists of a flat rod or plane balanced on a point. When you press on one end of a lever it pivots on the center point (fulcrum) and lifts the opposite end.
Fulcrum A fulcrum is the point at which a lever turns. In this sculpture the place where the skewer sit on the notched tube is the fulcrum.
While we are not using our lever to do work, this sculpture illustrates what a fulcrum is and how a lever is contructued.
Our balance sculptures also illustrate the following art concepts:
Balance The arrangement of the components in an artwork to create a feeling of stability and equilibrium.
Symmetry An artwork in which each side mirrors the other. If you drew a line down the center of the artwork each side would be the same.
Kinetic Sculpture A 3 dimensional artwork that moves.
If you enjoyed this project be sure to check out these balance project ideas (yes we clearly love exploring balance)!