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How to make Mr. Shaha’s Balancing Bird

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How can you easily make a “gravity-defying” physics toy with supplies from around the house? In this video, British science teacher, writer, and filmmaker Alom Shaha demonstrates how to make a Balancing Bird from a cereal box, thin paper, two small coins, and some tape.

Watch the video, then download this .pdf template from his site. Don’t forget to bend the bird’s wings and beak downwards. Decorate it with crayons or colored pencils, too.

adding coins to the bird
You can also find the template and more details behind the physics in his book, Mr. Shaha’s Marvellous Machines: Adventures in Making Round the Kitchen Table. The project is just one of its featured STEM tutorials.

For teachers, he notes that the balancing bird is a useful activity when teaching about moments and center of gravity. From his book:

“If you try to balance an object like a plate or a pencil, you’ll find that there’s only one point on the object below which you can put your finger to keep it stable. Sciencts call this point he ‘centre of mass’ or ‘centre of gravity’ of your object. You can think of it as the point around which the mass or weight of an object is evenly distributed…

balancing bird art

“If the centre of mass of an object is below the pivot point, and it is moved, it will always turn in a way that brings the center of mass back below the pivot. Again, you can see this for yourself by balancing a coat hanger on your finger by the tip of its hook—if you move the hanger to one side, it will swing back to its stable position. This is the secret to the stability of the balancing bird—it is made so that its centre of mass is below the point at which it is supported (its beak), and the centre of mass always falls back to a position directly below the pivot if it is moved.”

balancing bird

“Can you make your own balancing butterfly or other shape? What would happen if you change the position of the coins? What would happen if you used lighter or heavier coins for the wings? Does it make a difference if you bend the wings upwards instead of downwards?”

Alom Shaha demonstrates
Follow Mr. Shaha’s Books on YouTube for more tutorials.

Then watch more DIY activity videos about balance:
• How to Make Balancing Sculptures
• How many nails can you balance on the head of one nail?
A physics teacher explains tensegrity sculptures with LEGO

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