Ever wonder what would happen if you outfit a toy gyroscope with an electric motor and add an adjustable drive wheel? You get a super fun Gyrocar that can balance and run on a monorail, string, rim of a pot, you name it. The Gyrocar by Matthew Gryczan is one of the major projects in the current issue of MAKE, Volume 23, the Gadgets issue. This illustration breaks down the components of the Gyrocar:
Illustration by James Provost.
And Matt made this informative video introducing his Gyrocar:
From MAKE Volume 23, Gyrocar is one of four projects we picked to enter into our new projects library, Make: Projects. That means you can check out the full project right now, even if you don’t have the magazine in your hands. Need help with a step? You can add questions and commentary throughout the project. Because Make: Projects is a wiki, you can even help to make it better, and share modifications you’ve made in your own version.
One of our Make: Labs interns, Tyler Moskowite, built the Gyrocar in-house, and he offers the following 3 build tips from his own experience:
1. The biggest tip I have for anyone wanting to build the Gyrocar is to spend as much time and care building a perfectly centered Gyrocar. Making sure that all the pieces of the project line up will make the Gyrocar run extremely smooth. Take your time in any construction of this project because it all shows in the end.
2. Do not make the Gyrocar too tall. If you make it too tall it will probably end up being hard to balance, and any small mistakes in your build will really show when it runs. It will wobble around the track during operation a lot more.
3. If the trackwheel is giving you problems, it is easiest to make micro adjustments on the trackwheel mount. Adjusting the 2 screws that hold it to the cup, and the one that holds the wheel in place will make the wheel run better.
Tyler also put together a video demonstrating the Gyrocar in action and offering more build tips:
If you don’t have it already, make sure to pick up MAKE Volume 23, available at the Maker Shed.
From the pages of MAKE:
MAKE Volume 23, Gadgets
This special issue is devoted to machines that do delightful and surprising things. In it, we show you how to make a miniature electronic Whac-a-Mole arcade game, a tiny but mighty see-through audio amp, a magic mirror that contains an animated soothsayer, a self-balancing one-wheeled Gyrocar, and the Most Useless Machine (as seen on The Colbert Report!). Plus we go behind the scenes and show you how Intellectual Ventures made their incredible laser targeting mosquito zapper — yes, it’s real, and you wish you had one for your patio barbecue. All this and much, much more.
10 thoughts on “MAKE 23: Gyrocar how-to, demo video, and build pointers”
I don’t mean to nitpick, and I understand the need to simplify complicated subjects for print, but the above illustration’s (“Staying Up”) description of a gyroscope isn’t even remotely based in reality.
I’m really not sure where to begin parsing what was written; it’s a total fabrication. Introducing gravity (which like all forces acts at the speed of light, far faster than the spin of a toy top) to the analysis at all is a mistake. Gyroscopes resist external disturbances because of conservation of angular momentum. The principle therefore holds perfectly well in the absence of a net gravitational pull, like in a free-fall; this is how gyroscopes can still play a critical role in rockets.
In the future, if an explanation cannot be made sufficiently clear, I think it’d be preferable to either completely avoid it or simply point to an external source (e.g. wikipedia). Errors as flagrant as this should never included in Make.
Your points are well taken, Elvio, and thank you for your comments. We tried to explain too much in too few words, and readers may have been better served with a couple of examples of how gyroscopes are used and links for more information. Among the many external sources on the Internet regarding gyroscopes, here is one: http://science.howstuffworks.com/gyroscope.htm
I built a gyrocar exactly as you specified. It is powered by a 4.5 volt motor which turns a 2 1/2″ aluminiun flywheel at about 10,000 rpm measured at the edge of the flywheel. But in any event, the gyrocar appears top heavy, preventing it from balancing itself. Probably the center of gravity is to high. Do you have any hints that I can use to correct this sad situation?
Hello Pablo,I have a couple of suggestions that may help to get your gyrocar running like a top. The aluminium flywheel may not weigh enough: in the article, I used a old gyroscope wheel for one of my gyrocars, and a steel disc for my second. You possibly could use a couple of 2″ diameter steel washers that are available in hardware stores if you rig up a way to fill the center hole so it grips the motor shaft tightly and on center. Before you change out the gyrowheel, you may want to make sure that the track wheel is positioned properly under gyrowheel. It takes a little patience to adjust the track wheel so that its center line falls directly under the balancing point of the gyrocar. You can enlarge the holes in your bracket that holds the track wheel to allow for more adjustment if need be. In the article, I used a plastic cap for my housing such as what you would find on a can of shaving cream, so my gyrocar is rather small. Tyler went a different route making his by using a larger plastic container that may have made it a bit more difficult to balance the toy.
I followed your advice by making a flywheel heavier, I made it out of aluminiun 3/8″ thick x 2 1/2″ diameter and in having the track wheel in the right place so the gyrocar will balance now the gyrocar runs perfect.
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