Scientists Say: Gyroscope | Science News for Students

Scientists Say: Gyroscope

This is a device that measures how an object is oriented in space
Feb 25, 2019 — 6:30 am EST
an illustration of a gyroscope rotating

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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Power Words

(more about Power Words)

axis     The line about which something rotates. On a wheel, the axis would go straight through the center and stick out on either side. (in mathematics) An axis is a line to the side or bottom of a graph; it is labeled to explain the graph’s meaning and the units of measurement.

concussion     Temporary unconsciousness, or headache, dizziness or forgetfulness due to a severe blow to the head.

gyroscope     A device to measure the 3-dimensional orientation of something in space. Mechanical forms of the device tend to use a spinning wheel or disc that allows one axle inside it to take on any orientation.

monitor     To test, sample or watch something, especially on a regular or ongoing basis.

smartphone     A cell (or mobile) phone that can perform a host of functions, including search for information on the internet.