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Science Week - Mr Breslins class - Bicycle Gyroscope demo

posted Nov 10, 2020, 5:08 AM by Owen Breslin
Mr Breslins 6th class had great fun today learning about forces. After watching the linked video about angular momentum the pupils got to try it out for themselves. The explanation for what is happening is found in the extract below.


A rotating bicycle wheel has angular momentum, which is a property involving the speed of rotation, the mass of the wheel, and how the mass is distributed. For example, most of a bicycle wheel’s mass is concentrated along the wheel’s rim, rather than at the center, and this causes a larger angular momentum at a given speed. Angular momentum is characterized by both size and direction. The bicycle wheel, you, and the lazy susan form a system that obeys the principle of conservation of angular momentum. This means that any change in angular momentum within the system must be accompanied by an equal and opposite change, so the net effect is zero. Grace is now standing on the lazy susan with the bicycle wheel spinning. One way to change the angular momentum of the bicycle wheel is to change its direction. To do this, Grace must exert a twisting force, called a torque, on the wheel. The bicycle wheel will then exert an equal and opposite torque on Grace. (That’s because for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.) Thus, when Grace twist the bicycle wheel, the bicycle wheel will twist Grace the opposite way. since Grace is standing on a low-friction pivot, the twisting force of the bicycle wheel will cause grace to turn. The change Grace’s angular momentum compensates for the change in angular momentum of the wheel. The system as a whole ends up obeying the principle of conservation of angular momentum.