Yo-Yo Design: Kinetic Energy

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Think like an engineer and get creative with design in class.

If you can’t get a yo-yo to bounce, it may not be your fault: your yo-yo may need better engineering. When you release a yo-yo on its string, it should convert potential energy into kinetic energy—and as it spins back into your hand, its kinetic energy turns back into potential energy. The basic physics principle here is simple, but the energy it produces can power roller coasters. In this engineering challenge, you’ll create a yo-yo that puts kinetic energy to work, and bounces with just a flick of the wrist.

In this classroom challenge, you’ll learn skills that engineers use every day at work: researching technical requirements, sketching 3D models, applying principles of kinetic energy, and presenting a custom 3D model yo-yo engineered for optimum performance. With creativity and critical thinking, you can make and 3D print a yo-yo design that gives you the winning edge in yo-yo competitions—and in your future career in engineering, science, or 3D design.

Inspire others and share your yo-yo design on the Autodesk Digital Steam Workshop.


Project Brief - Kinetic Energy: Yo-Yo Design

Potential energy is a term used to describe the possible energy that a body or system can produce. Potential energy can be used broadly to describe stored energy. There are several categories of potential energy. Potential energy can be illustrated by a ball resting on a tabletop or a roller-coaster car at the top of a steep drop prior to descending. The stored energy results from the difference in their position relative to Earth and its gravitational pull. Kinetic energy refers to the energy an object possesses from being in motion. For example, a motorcycle uses energy (fuel) to gain speed. This is the same thing as saying that the motorcycle transfers energy from a chemical source into kinetic energy. In order to stop, the motorcycle would have to lose its kinetic energy. This could be accomplished in many ways such as braking, an impact, or by simply slowing down over time by stopping the flow of fuel and allowing friction to bring the motorcycle to a stop. “Design thinking” linked to this project starts by formulating and answering some key questions:

• How is potential energy converted to kinetic energy in a yo-yo?
• What is the ideal diameter and mass of a yo-yo?
• What features of a yo-yo will maximize spinning?
• How does an understanding of center of gravity impact the design of a yo-yo?
• What are the best materials for the construction of the yo-yo body?
• How might the length, diameter, and material of the string influence the movement of a yo-yo?
• What are some design features that might enhance the market appeal of a yo-yo?

A good example of potential energy can be seen in a yo-yo. When the yo-yo is released from the user’s hand, it begins to spin and fall. Upon release, the yo-yo’s potential energy begins to convert to kinetic energy, which causes it to spin and fall. This potential energy was originally imparted to it when the user lifted the yo-yo up. When the yo-yo is climbing its string, it is converting and storing the spinning kinetic energy back into potential energy. The technical videos in this project guide you through the process of designing a simple yo-yo using Autodesk® 123D® Design. Hopefully, after learning the basics of the software, students can develop their own designs for objects or systems that are influenced by potential and kinetic energy.

Design considerations used in the example project are as follows:

• Purpose: Design a simple yo-yo as a way of demonstrating potential and kinetic energy.
• Target market: All ages.
• Size limitations: Maximum 3-inch diameter.
• Materials to be used: Wood, metal, and plastic.
• Scheduling requirements: 1–2 hours for design thinking video and technical video tutorial.

This projects supports the learning of the following concepts:

• Energy is the capacity to do work. In physics, work occurs when a force moves an object though a distance. Work is defined by the mathematical calculation of W = F • x. (W= work, where F is the applied force and x is the distance moved or the displacement.)
• Energy is classified under two major categories: potential and kinetic energy. Potential energy is stored energy waiting to be used, such as the energy in a stretched out rubber band or the energy stored in a battery or spring.
• Kinetic energy is the energy of motion such as the motion of a vehicle, a ball falling to earth, or heat waves generated from a radiant space heater.
• According to the first law of thermodynamics, energy can be neither created nor destroyed. Energy is constantly being converted from one form to another. For example, chemical energy in a battery is converted to electrical energy, or the gravitational kinetic energy of falling water is converted into mechanical and electrical energy in hydroelectric dams.
• Friction within a system (such as an internal combustion engine) causes the conversion of mechanical kinetic energy into heat or thermal energy, which is generally lost and degrades the performance of system.
• Fuels, such as gasoline, store potential chemical energy, which is converted into kinetic energy when combusted.
• Potential energy can be stored in molecular bonds. This energy can be released through the application of energy.
• The kinetic energy of a moving vehicle is converted to heat energy from friction when brakes are applied. Innovations in sustainable design focus on minimizing the loss of thermal energy through friction with systems, such as regenerative braking, that capture a large portion of the kinetic energy and convert it into electrical energy stored in a batteries as potential energy for future use.

After completing this lesson, students will be able to demonstrate growth in the following areas.

Process Skills and Knowledge
• Effectively interact with the 123D Design user interface.
• Demonstrate an ability to use 2D sketch tools in the software.
• Demonstrate an ability to use 3D form-generation tools in the software.
• Demonstrate an ability to assemble components using constraints.
• Demonstrate an ability to alter material/finish choices for a model.
• Demonstrate an ability to apply commands such as patterns, scale, and mirroring of geometry.
• Understand the potential of converting 123D models into physical prototypes via technologies that include 3D printing and laser cutting facilitated by Autodesk® 123D® Make.

• Explain the principles of energy and work.
• Explain the differences between potential and kinetic energy.
• Explain the idea around conservation of energy, where energy is neither lost or created but is converted.
• Explain how the reduction of friction, and the conversion of kinetic energy into heat, is critical in the operation of products and other mechanical systems.
• Explain how the conversion of energy is critical to environmental sustainability.
• Explain the key forms of energy that fall under the categories of kinetic and potential energy.