How to Build a Gyroscope

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Leon Foucault, a French physicist, invented the gyroscope in 1852. It is typically a disc-shaped object that won’t move in certain directions when it is spun on its axis at high speeds. A gyroscope demonstrates Isaac Newton’s first law of motion, which states that an object at rest or in motion will stay that way until another force acts to change that. It can also show the principles of precession, angular momentum and torque.

Bicycle Wheel Gyroscope

    Attach the bicycle handles to the wheel’s axle on both sides. The handles should have a hollow center that will slip over the center axle on both sides of the wheel. This will allow you to hold the wheel without obstructing its spinning movement.

    Tie the rope to one side of the wheel in between the handle and the wheel. Tie a double or triple knot to ensure the wheel is securely attached to the rope. Cut any loose pieces of rope so that they don't get tangled in the spokes of the wheel.

    Suspend the wheel by the rope on the doorway using the nail or hook. A porch or covered patio will work. The hook should be pushed or hammered into a wood beam so it does not detach.

Paper Gyroscope

    Place a piece of plain unlined paper on a flat surface. The paper should be 8 1/2 x 11 inches for best results. Lay it so that the long, 11-inch side is horizontal.

    Fold the paper up on one side. Each fold should be between 1/2 to 1 inch. Keep folding over previous folds until you have about 1 1/2 inches of unfolded paper hanging.

    Make a cylinder with your folded paper. The fold should be on the inside of the cylinder.

    Connect the ends of the cylinder. Insert the lip of one side into the opening on the other side to form a sturdy ring.

    Tips

    • Ask a friend to help tie the rope to the hook or nail while you hold the wheel. Your helper can also help you spin the wheel while you hold it in place using the bike handles.

      The wheel will not spin if the rope is too thick -- try a clothesline.

      The wheel needs to spin at a high rate for the gyroscope to work.

      Hold the wheel away from your body so it can spin freely.

      Hold the paper gyroscope so the folded, stiff part is touching your thumb and index finger. Throw the paper gyroscope like a football.

    Warnings

    • Keep your hands away from the spokes of the spinning wheel to prevent injury.

References

About the Author

Based in North Carolina, Nigel Wall has been writing science and health-related articles since 2001. Her articles have appeared in scientific journals like the "Journal of Medical Genetics" as well as on various websites including Betterdigestion.org and 1Degreebio.org. Wall holds a Master of Science in biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University.

Photo Credits

  • Melissa Rodgers/iStock/Getty Images

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