The Inspirograph, located at Redwood Discovery Museum, Eureka, CA
FA info icon.svg Angle down icon.svg Project data
Authors Keann Lee Kline
Ish-Kaysh Tripp
Aren Page
Location California, Eureka
Status Deployed
Made Yes
Replicated No
Cost USD 241.60
Uses education
OKH Manifest Download

The purpose of this project was to create an interactive exhibit based on the original children's Spirograph toy using both new and upcycled materials. The design was to be a table top spirograph system that children could use to create geometric patterns on paper that they could take home with them.

Background[edit | edit source]

Team BlackBox is a team of four students in Lonny Grafman's Engineering Design course (ENGR 215)for the Fall 2017 semester at Cal Poly Humboldt. The team consists of Alex Cody-Prentice, Keann Kline, Aren Page and Ish Tripp. The client that Team BlackBox collaborated with is Redwood Discovery Museum, an educational, non-profit children's museum located in Eureka, California. The Redwood Discovery Museum educates young children in Humboldt County through fun exhibits intended for ages 3-8, incorporating the foundations of science, arts, and general health. Toy-maker and founder of the Redwood Discovery Museum, Ken Pinkerton, has hand-crafted many of the exhibits on display and has had a long-time passion for crafting toys with a philosophy of hands-on education by minimizing exposure to digital screens.

Problem statement[edit | edit source]

The Redwood Discovery Museum did not previously have a spirograph exhibit but they desired one. The primary objective of the project was to create a table top version of a traditional spirograph that is safe, fun and inspiring for children ages 3-8.

Criteria[edit | edit source]

Below is a table of criteria for the Inspirograph. Each criterion is weighted on a scale of one to ten to determine its degree of importance.

Table-1: Criteria and Constraints
Criteria Weight Constraints
Appeal 5 Multiple color options available for writing tool.
Operation & Maintenance 8 Must be less than $1.00/per day.
Ease of use 8 Must be easy to use by children ages 3-8.
Durability 9 Must last longer than one year.
Education 9 Must be understood by users ages 3-8.
Inspiration 9 Stoke factor.
Safety 10 Must be safe for children using ASTM Toy Safety Standards guidelines.
Cost 7 Expenses must not exceed a total of $500.
Inspirograph Design

Description of final project[edit | edit source]

The Inspirograph is a larger upcycled tabletop version of a traditional children's toy spirograph design. The table stands at 28 inches high, which adheres to the Americans with Disabilities Act making it accessible for children of all backgrounds. The Inspirograph design implements a variety of upcycled materials. Upcycled materials are reinvented parts from previous use in order to prolong the life of these resources and reduce the amount of material from being thrown away. The Inspirograph uses re-purposed bicycle components to create the gears of the system while implementing a salvaged table for the system and salvaged plywood.

Components[edit | edit source]


The "COGS" of the Inspirograph are created from reused bicycle cogs. These bike cogs are sandwiched in between two circular cuts of plywood that act as protective coverings for the sharp parts of the gears. The plywood pieces and bike cog are spaced apart with rubber grommets to allow some flexibility in the movement of the inner cog on the track. This creates the appropriate spacing giving the cog an easy rotation along the bike chain. Along the top plywood piece holes are drilled in the shape of a Fibonacci spiral; this provides a place to put a writing implement. Using a Fibonacci spiral in pen placement allows the user to create different designs depending on which hole they use to draw with.


The "HINGED GEAR SURFACE" of the Inspirograph is made from a sheet of plywood that has been attached to the table surface with two hinges. In the center of the plywood sheet a circular hole was cut to mount the bicycle chain and create the space for the user to draw the spirograph design. The hinges are utilized to allow the user to easily lift up the surface of the spirograph and replace the writing paper. Simultaneously this provides a piece which holds the paper taught when drawing.


The "HOOK & PAPER ROLL MOUNT" is a galvanized steel hook that was used to create a durable and easily maintained paper roll holder. The hook holds a steel pipe which threads through a roll of paper. This allows the paper roll to be lifted out and replaced easily while reducing friction from rolling out the paper. The roll is held in place by two galvanized steel flanges screwed to either side of the metal pipe and once unscrewed, the paper roll can be easily replaced.


"L-BRACKET SUPPORTS" are seen here. Durability was a very important component in the Inspirograph, therefore to prevent possible breakage from over extension, L- Brackets were implemented. L-Brackets prevent the top surface of the spirograph from going beyond ninety degrees. This will prevent the hinges from experiencing too much downward force and breaking. It will also prevent an observer from being injured while the user is replacing the spirograph paper.


"MARKER STORAGE BOX" is pictured here. The concern that the Inspirograph markers would go missing resulted in the creation of a storage box. The box was placed on the underside of the tabletop for easy access and can hold up to 40 different colors.

Costs[edit | edit source]

Quantity Material Source Cost ($) Total ($)
1 Bearings AMPT Skateshop 10.88 10.88
1 Screws, Drill Bits, felt pads, pens Ace Hardware 23.46 23.46
1 Plywood Pierson's Building Supply 11.83 11.83
1 Brackets, Hinges, Epoxy, Screws Ace Hardware 33.39 33.39
1 Dowels & Hooks Walmart 4.17 4.17
1 Galvenized Steel Piping Ace Hardware 66.46 66.46
1 Corner Braces, Hinge Covers, PVC Caps Ace Hardware 8.20 8.20
1 Epoxy, Wood Plugs Ace Hardware 18.41 18.41
1 Sand Paper Ace Hardware 6.34 6.34
1 Rubber Grommets Ace Hardware 24.98 24.98
1 Felt Tip Markers CVS 7.37 7.37
1 Hacksaw Blades Ace Hardware 6.49 6.49
1 Salvaged Bike Parts Arcata Scrap & Salvage 10.85 10.85
Total Cost $241.60

Testing Results[edit | edit source]

The Redwood Discovery Museum now has an Inspirograph to add to their collection of exhibits. Not all children know how to express their artistic ability using a standard writing tool and paper. Yet, the Inspirograph allows children to make beautiful geometric designs with simple instruction.

Maintenance[edit | edit source]

The Inspirograph was designed and constructed to be durable. The life of the system is estimated to be 20 years. It was determined that the Inspirograph will undergo approximately 10 uses per business day. Given that markers and paper will be the primary components for upkeep, the estimated operation and maintenance cost will be roughly $200.00 per year. Figure 5-2 provides a breakdown of the operation and maintenance costs.

Material Annual Cost ($)
Marker $28.08
Paper $156.60
General Hardware $10.00

Troubleshooting[edit | edit source]

Problem Suggestion
Paper orientation is wrong Lift the top surface then use both hands to pull the paper across the bottom surface. Gently drop top surface back down onto paper to secure.
Inner cog is not connecting with outer cog Gently press the cog against the outer cog to ensure the teeth of the inner cog are locking into the chain on the outer cog.

For complex issues, please contact Ken Pinkerton.

Discussion and next steps[edit | edit source]

The results of building the design concluded that the Inspirograph will serve as a fun and inspirational exhibit for children to expand their creative learning. The system is safe, sturdy and able to withstand the ravages of time. It has been deemed simple to use and likely to expand a child's cognitive learning by offering the ability to make artistic geometric patterns with ease.

Project Documents for Download[edit | edit source]

Authors[edit | edit source]

Team BlackBox

Left to right: Keann Kline, Ish-Kaysh Tripp, Aren Page, and Alex Cody-Prentice

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