Expert plate spinners

Grace, left, and Brooklyn were quick studies at plate-spinning at Friday’s wrap-up party for 500 kids who took part in camps at Okanagan College this summer.

Nine-year-olds Grace and Brooklyn didn’t know it, but they were getting a lesson in physics, reflexes, balance, gyroscope effect and angular momentum on Friday.

The girls were nonchalantly spinning plates in the air at the wrap-up party for 500 kids who took summer camps at Okanagan College this month and last.

“Ya, it’s pretty easy,” said Brooklyn, who is going into Grade 4 at Kelowna’s Dorothea Walker Elementary in September.

“It just took me two tries and now its spinning.”

On further inquiry, I learn Brooklyn didn’t learn plate-spinning in the Junior Mad Scientist camp she took.

She just picked it up three or four minutes ago in the atrium of the Kelowna campus’s Centre for Learning.

Plate-spinning isn’t brain surgery, but it is a skill that kids can readily master for fun and education.

Don’t try this with Grandma’s good china as the plate is likely to topple and smash.

But, as Grace and Brooklyn did, use a specially made, heavy, plastic plate with an upraised rim on the bottom and an indentation in the centre to make it easier for you to centre the dowel (balancing stick) as the plate rotates.

That way, you won’t shatter any plates as you become proficient.

Becoming a good plate spinner is relatively simple, almost intuitive.

You start by hanging the plate by the rim on the tip of the stick and slowly rotate until it gains momentum and spins faster.

There may be some early wobbles as the plate makes its way from dangling diagonal to happy horizontal.

At full speed, self-generated propulsion keeps the plate spinning with only gentle wrist twists by the operator.

If you become an expert and maybe want to join the circus, you can add dance moves or somersaults, or introduce juggling or fire to the equation.

Neither Grace nor Brooklyn aspires to run away and join the circus, so they were happy to leave the plate-spinning behind and grab a juice box and some popcorn as the party proceeded.

Some of the other hands-on fun (and education) included inflating balloons with bottles containing baking soda and carbon dioxide, making things foam with hydrogen peroxide (elephant toothpaste), dying eggs, and making sherbet and rock candy.

Over eight weeks this summer, Okanagan College offered 135 weeklong camps at its Kelowna, Penticton and Vernon campuses.

Themes covered the gamut to entertain and inform based on interest and age. There were sports, animation, unicorns and rainbows, ninja warrior, computer coding, cooking, photography, fashion, storytelling, writing and mad scientist camps.

For the wrap-up party Friday, the travelling show from Vancouver’s Science World dropped by to present its Science Surprises show for the kids.

The performance featured flamboyant demonstrations of a vacuum chamber, bang cannon and Van de Graaff electrostatic generator.