Center of Mass Lesson - Balancing Bird

by nguyenever, published

Center of Mass Lesson - Balancing Bird by nguyenever Aug 8, 2016

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Project #5 - Center of Mass with a Balancing Bird

In this project, students will have an opportunity to learn about and test the concept of center of mass/gravity (used interchangeably). Students will be provided 3D printed Balancing Birds to discuss the possible reasons why the bird is able to spin on its beak without falling off its axis of rotation.

The sample 3D STL file included is borrowed from user: mled90


Print Settings


Flashforge 3D Creator Pro






15% infill should be more than enough for the bird print. It can be increased if necessary.


Finished print by user mled90 who created the original Spinning Balancing Bird STL file

Sample video of a demonstration of a Spinning Bird Balance (THIS IS NOT A 3D PRINTED ONE)

Finished 3D Print

How I Designed This

The balancing bird can be created in many different forms so long as the center of mass of the object remains at the beak of the bird where it can be balanced. The sample STL included in the project from user Mled90 is a good example of something that can be used.


Overview and Background

Students in a physics/physical science setting will explore the concept of center of mass/gravity using these printed spinning balancing birds. This lesson would serve as a precursor to the content taught in this particular learning objectives covering center of mass/gravity.


Students will use the spinning balancing birds to develop a fundamental understanding of the concept of center of mass.


Grades (7-12)
Ages (12-18)
Skill Levels (all)

Skills Learned (Standards)

MS-PS2-2. Plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object’s motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object.

Lesson Plan and Activity

Step 1: Explain the activity to students
Step 2: Split students into groups of 2
Step 3: Distribute balancing birds to all groups randomly
Step 4: Allow students to experiment to find out where the center of mass is/what position to place the bird that will allow it to spin without falling off a point of contact (ie: a finger)
Step 5: Students will test their particular 3D printed balancing bird to see whether or not it is able to spin without falling off its axis of rotation
Step 6: Discuss the concept of center of gravity with the students, weighing in on evidence from the spinning bird experiment.

Skills Learned

  • MS-PS2-2

Duration of Lesson

1 hour to complete exploratory session and discussion



The 3D printed birds should be printed prior to the lesson
An equal amount of each bird should be printed to distribute evenly across student groups
Small items can also be used to balance the bird such as bottles or markers
Lab area



Rubric & Assessment

None -> Teacher may evaluate based on participation and validity based on students who can properly explain why their bird does or does not stay balanced as it spins.

Handouts & Assets

None -> See video for example of how to set up bird for spinning.

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I'll be uploading a new version this coming weekend. Could use some tweaks in the weak areas of the bird.

How did you get the detail? The STLs don't have that.

Hey Malcolm!

I noted in the picture that the photo was of a non-3D printed 'Balancing Bird.' I got the idea from some physics lessons I have taught and decided to repurpose another model that I found to fit the bill as far as a diverse lesson.

It's certainly possible to create a STL that is as textured. I'll think of putting some time into creating a better 3D file for this lesson at a later time.

Thanks for the comment!