Scientists Say: Gyroscope

This is a device that measures how an object is oriented in space

This is a gyroscope. Several disks rotate around each other and keep the device upright.

LucasVB/Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

Gyroscope (noun, “J-EYE-roh-scope”)

This is a device that measures the three-dimensional position of something in space. A gyroscope in an object can detect whether the object is pointing up, down or to the side. Usually, a gyroscope is made of a wheel or disk that rotates around another disk or axis. The rotation of the disks measures both the orientation of the gyroscope itself and how fast it is turning in one direction or another.

Gyroscopes serve many purposes. They can help keep satellites and spacecrafts pointed in one direction. And they’re used in special cameras to keep the lens steady as the person behind it walks, drives or runs. But there’s probably a gyroscope near you right now. Smartphones have gyroscopes. They are used to orient the phone’s screen, monitor your steps and detect when you’ve dropped your phone. 

In a sentence

Scientists popped a gyroscope into the mouthguards of athletes to learn about what causes concussions. 

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Bethany is the staff writer at Science News for Students. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology from Wake Forest University School of Medicine.