What’s a Gyroscope and why is it Important?
Do you know what a gyroscope is?
I know when I started researching about it I had no idea why an object that pointlessly spins around and around is actually important. After more insight into the topic, I realized how important and cool gyroscopes really are.
A gyroscope consists of a wheel that is mounted onto an axle, where both the wheel and axle are able to spin freely since they are secured by a round frame. The axis of rotation in a gyroscope can assume any direction since while it’s being rotated, the axis doesn’t change.
They are usually used to detect and measure the angular motion (the motion of a body about a fixed axis) of an object.
But the coolest thing is, gyroscopes defy the gravity of earth! They are able to stand by themselves vertically, stand on something horizontally, and balance on string without falling down! They may be tricky to understand, but because of the angular momentum the object possesses, it will resist all changes to its axis of rotation as that results in a change in the angular momentum.
In the real world, gyroscopes are used in aircrafts, space, compasses, etc. Gyroscopes are actually very similar to the solar system too! The orbital rotation of planets makes angular motion that keeps the solar plane moving straight to resist change in angular momentum.
Our planet Earth also incorporates properties of the gyroscope like precession. The change in the direction of Earth’s axis of rotation (like a spinning top) is known as precession. Precession is the movement of the axis of a spinning object where an external force is acting on the axis. Because of precession, Earths tilt on its axis will slowly change over time.
Now that you know the basics of how gyroscopes operate, you could try to make one!
Interested in making a fun little experimental gyroscope yourself? MEL Science has a gyroscope kit that can teach you more about the axis of rotation and how it relates to our planets.
Here’s an example!
This set and 70+ others are included in the MEL Science subscription. Subscribe to MEL Science to get a new science set…
And here is the kit.
Have fun building!