In physics class earlier this week, we were presented with a task to make a top out of two mini paper plates, a pencil, six pennies, and tape. Without any instruction, we had to create a top and make it spin for a decent amount of time using these materials.
The engineering design process played a big part in our creation of a top, even though we didn't know it at the time. The steps of the engineering design process are: define the problem, do background research, specify requirements, brainstorm and choose a solution, develop and prototype a solution, test solution, solution meets requirements, and communicate results. The problem was to create a top and the background we had was we saw one working before we started to design our own. The brainstorming area had to be cut short based on time, so we went right into making our solution. Once our first solution didn't work out as we were testing it, we mostly resorted to trial and error. While we were never successful in getting the top to spin for more than a couple seconds, some of our classmates were.
A top relates to moment of inertia and angular momentum because the moment of inertia depends on mass and radius, so including all of the pennies spaced out to the edges of the paper plates created the most inertia. Angular momentum depends on the moment of inertia and angular velocity, so the greater the inertia and angular velocity, the greater the angular momentum, and therefore the time the top will spin. I now understand the difficulty of the engineering design process and how many tries it takes to finally come up with a perfect solution based on the proper equations.