Next Generation Yo-Yo

Orbital Entertainment

Larry Shaw was studying theoretical physics at Cornell University when he threaded three hex nuts onto a string of dental floss and started playing around with his model of orbiting objects. He noticed the swinging hex nuts made fun patterns, and after many iterations and a diligent patent pursuit, Larry’s creation evolved into Astrojax.

A cross between juggling and yo-yoing, Astrojax consists of 3 weighted balls on a string that you swing, rebound and rotate rhythmically. There are tons of tricks you can try, or you
can invent your own whizzing, spinning, and flipping combinations. The latest generation, Astrojax MX, has modular components so you can easily swap parts and colors. MX Pop is futuristic and aerodynamic, and MX Sport has a soft grip that’s ideal for body and rebound tricks.

Astrojax is addictively fun, plus it’s educational. In classrooms, teachers use Astrojax to demonstrate the basic principles of physics, orbital motion, and rotational energy. Like the pursuit of perpetual motion, once you get started with Astrojax, it’s tough to stop playing.
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Grommet Launch Conversation

  • Larry

    Hi everyone!!! I'm Larry Shaw, the inventor of Astrojax. It's a deceptively simple toy, but in three balls on a string lies a universe of orbital motion. From the basic orbits to wild and crazy patterns, the possibilities are virtually limitless. I'm happy to answer any and all questions ... How to play. How I invented it, patented it and got it to market. Why NASA took it into outer space and how to jax in zero gravity. What is the physics of its orbits. Why we call it the Free-Dimensional Orbiter. Or we can just chat about play in general ...

  • Larry
    5/17/2013 12:47 PM

    Hi Larry! This looks like an amazingly fun toy but I was wondering, is it easy to get the hang of it and start doing tricks? Thanks!

  • Larry
    Larry – Special Guest
    5/17/2013 12:53 PM

    @Larry: (Another Larry!) Yes, the basic orbits are pretty easy to get the hang of. Vertical orbits are the easiest. It doesn't take much hand motion, just little tugs at the frequency of the orbits. There are also a lot of good tutorial videos posted at, and players have posted a couple thousand videos with all sorts of tricks and routines on YouTube!!! Happy Orbiting!

  • Brad
    5/17/2013 1:00 PM

    Hey Larry! I saw the footage of the astronauts playing with the astrojax. How did you get NASA to take astrojax into space?

  • Larry
    Larry – Special Guest
    5/17/2013 1:07 PM

    Hi Brad! Well, I sent them Astrojax back in 1996 or 1997 when I heard they had a Toys in Space educational program, along with a description of what types of orbits they could expect in zero gravity. Then, in 2002 I got a call saying that they would be playing with it in outer space in a few days. So I hopped on a plane and got to watch it live from Mission Control, Houston!

  • D
    5/17/2013 1:50 PM

    Are there instructions and tips included with the item?

  • Larry
    Larry – Special Guest
    5/17/2013 1:55 PM

    Hi D! Yes, some instructions about the basic orbits are included with the toy. But you may also want to check online (at and on YouTube) to see videos, which can also be very helpful. Happy Orbiting!

  • Judie
    5/17/2013 1:50 PM

    Hi Larry,

    I work with grade school children. Any easy physics ideas for 5th graders?

    Thank you,


  • Larry
    Larry – Special Guest
    5/17/2013 2:13 PM

    Hi Judie! There are a number of science experiments that are appropriate for 5th graders ...

    1. If you perform vertical and horizontal orbits, you will notice that horizontal orbits continue with no hand motion, whereas vertical orbits require a bit of hand motion to keep them going. The question is: Why is hand motion required to keep vertical orbits going, but not required to keep horizontal orbits going? The answer can be found by *listening* very closely to the orbits! With vertical orbits you hear a slight sliding sound. That is because during vertical orbits, the center ball slides up and down a little bit on the string during each orbit. In contrast, horizontal orbits don't have that sliding sound, because the center ball stays at one point on the string. When things slide some energy is lost to friction. That energy has to be added back, and that is why hand motion is required to maintain vertical orbits.

  • Larry
    Larry – Special Guest
    5/17/2013 2:33 PM

    2. The question is: Why is there is a metal weight at the center of each ball? Kids can do an experiment which gives a hint as to why. If you do a twirl on the ball of your foot (this is best on a slippery floor, not carpet, with a slippery shoe, not a rubber sole shoe), and bring your arms in you will notice that you can increase the speed of your twirl. Divers also use this principle when they tuck into a ball during a dive to do more rotations. When the weight/mass is brought nearer the center, things can spin faster. So the weight at the center of the middle ball allows it to spin faster in response to the forces applied by the string. Because of this the string never snags around the middle ball during vertical orbits! If you paint the middle ball so that the top hemisphere is, for instance, darker than the bottom hemisphere, you can see that the middle ball snaps around very quickly as the outer ball goes over the top of a vertical orbit. In fact, because of the center weight, the middle ball can snap around in about 1/20th of a second!

  • Larry
    Larry – Special Guest
    5/19/2013 11:20 AM

    Oh, and ice skaters use this same principle when they bring in their arms during a twirl to spin faster!

  • Kelly
    5/17/2013 1:51 PM

    Hi Larry. I think play is highly underrated in children's education so it's great to hear that a toy like Astrojax is being used to teach kids about science! I have a question: Can you tell me more about how you got it to market? Thanks!

  • Larry
    Larry – Special Guest
    5/17/2013 2:02 PM

    Hi Kelly! I agree, play is a very important part of childhood and learning!!! Playfulness is joyful experimentation. Astrojax is a great educational toy because it is so open-ended, so it stimulates inventiveness, creativity and playfulness!

    Getting it on the market was actually much more difficult than I expected. Much more difficult than inventing, prototyping or patenting it. Over the course of about 7 years I approached 135 companies, 130 of them rejected it, but in the end I did find two companies that were interested.

  • Amy
    Amy – Grommet Team
    5/17/2013 3:58 PM


    I'm so glad to hear that you found success with The Grommet. We fully realize how difficult the process can be. In fact, we often say that launching a consumer product is like the olympics of business. It's incredibly difficult and we are proud to support entrepreneurs like yourself.

  • Larry
    Larry – Special Guest
    5/17/2013 4:05 PM

    Thanks Amy! It's an honor to be here among such great entrepreneurs and products!

  • Jules
    Jules – Grommet Team
    5/18/2013 5:40 AM

    @Larry Your tale of persistence (approaching 135 companies) is impressive. Many people would give up far before. But we specifically look to help entrepreneurs and Makers like you because we know that the hardest part of all is "finding your people." I mean a community of people who will share, buy and use an innovative product and spread the word. That community has so much power and we are working hard to create it for people like you.

  • Larry
    Larry – Special Guest
    5/19/2013 10:18 AM

    Thanks Jules! You folks are doing a fantastic job! This is where the Internet can be such a powerful tool. :)

The launch day conversation has ended. Please direct further questions about this Grommet to our Community Experience Team.

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