GyroXtreme – a Human-Powered Gyroscope!

May 12, 2011

At the Houston Museum of Natural Science, we are all about learning and having fun. Explore the principles of physics – up close – in our  new GyroXtreme, which uses two types of axis motion to send a rider spinning in looping arcs.

The earliest known gyroscope instrument was invented in 1817 by Johann Bohnenberger. In 1852, Leon Foucault created a version to see the rotation of the earth, which is where the gyroscope gets its name: the Greek word for “to see” is skopeein and the word for rotation is gyros.

Gyroscopes are often used to replace magnetic compasses or to allow objects to spin in any direction. Gyroscopes can be found in a wide range of things, from ballistic missiles, to romote control helicopters, to yo-yos, to even the Hubble Telescope.

Here at the Museum, you can experience a gyroscope for yourself!

Once inside, you’ll experience 2 kinds of motion: along the first axis, the cage holding 2 passengers can spin as a traditional gyroscope does, at right angles to the bottom of the seats and perpendicular to the ground. This is comparable to spinning like a ballerina.

The second spin axis is parallel to the seat bottoms, connected at waist level to the riders’ cage. This is similar to the motion of a gymnast spinning around a bar.

When the 2 spinning motions are combined, the riders move in looping arcs! Check out this video of one of our brave staff as she spins in all sorts of weird directions.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Our GyroXtreme is located in the Grand Hall – check it out the next time you’re here!

Authored By Steven Cowan

Steven never dreamed his first job out of college would be in public relations, and on top of that working for one of the top museums in the country. After all, he majored in History at Vassar College. Within three months of graduation, he landed a spot in the PR department and has not looked back since. He is fast becoming a communications fanatic, spending a tremendous amount of his time promoting the museum and all it has to offer.

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