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How does a gyroscope work?

Could you please give a simple Explanation for how a Gyroscope works? The explanation needs to be simple enough for a child to understand. For our Science Week event we are having a show and tell for children of all ages and I have to do something about gyroscopes, because I have a really neat gyroscope, but I don’t know how it works!
George from Bristol (Age: 5-14)

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2 Responses

  1. Basically a gyroscope is something that keeps spinning in the same direction. If you take a wheel off a bicycle, hold the ends of the axle, set it spinning and try to make it turn you will feel a resisting force trying to make the wheel keep spinning in the same direction. The same force makes the Earth keep spinning (more or less) in the same direction. Actually all gyroscopes wobble a bit, but let’s ignore that for now.
    So why do they do it? It relies on the fact that a body tries to keep moving in the same direction. It’s one of Newton’s laws. All the bits of the bicycle wheel want to go straight, but they can’t because they’re being pulled sideways by the axle. So they do the next best thing: they go round by the shortest route.
    When we try to twist the axle we feel the wheel resisting because all those bits are trying to keep moving in the same direction they were going before. So good old Mr Newton had a pretty good idea when he invented his rule.

  2. The gyroscope has a certain amount of mystery surrounding it. Let us take the bicycle wheel, put a very long pipe through the axle and set it spinning. What is the force which keeps the pole upright?

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