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Students Compete in Top Engineer Design Project

GEORGETOWN - Spinning tops have been used as toys and games for thousands of years by people all over the world. All tops have a low center of gravity, a symmetrical vertical axis, and a point that they balance on when they rotate. But what makes some tops spin longer than others?

High school students enrolled in the Upward Bound Math and Science program at Delaware Tech’s Owens Campus in Georgetown found the answer to that question this summer. The students spent a week designing and creating tops for a classroom competition to see which team could make the one that spins the longest. The challenge involved all aspects of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) initiative to develop excitement in students about careers in those areas.

Once the students learned the mathematical formulas that helped them understand how mass, radius, and rotational speed affect angular momentum, they worked in teams to design tops using computer aided drafting (CAD) software. The actual tops were then printed from a plastic compound on the Engineering and Technology Department’s 3-D printer.  The students used a CNC lathe to make brass spindles, and they placed brass weights in other parts of the top in an effort to increase its ability to spin longer.

The tops were launched in the competition by a specially designed BB rotational drive system onto a smooth surface. Each team’s score was determined using the average of three time trials.  The team of Sandra Massey, Omar Gutierrez, and Coty Lineweaver won the competition with an average spin time of 5 minutes, 19 seconds.

“I think our team was successful because our design was more circular and didn’t have as much drag,” said Sandra Massey, a sophomore at Seaford High School. “We were really careful in creating the design.”

The Upward Bound Math and Science program strengthens the math and science skills of selected high school students and generates the abilities and motivation necessary for their success in post-secondary programs leading to STEM careers. For more information on Upward Bound Math and Science call Ryan Brown at (302) 259-6322 or visit

Clockwise Top Left to Right: Engineering Technologies Department Adjunct Faculty Member Bill Benchoff, Engineering Instructional Coordinator David Pedersen, Victor DeGeorge, Kyle Fischer, Warren Williams II, Angel Gomez and Ash-Lyn Rossi.