What is the Center of Rotation?

Instructor: Mark Boster
The center of rotation comes in handy if you like to draw - especially if you like to draw things that go in circles! In fact, anything can be the center of rotation on a picture or a three dimensional object.

To the Fair

Cher loved the fair; her mother took her every year. Her favorite ride was the Ferris wheel - she liked to watch it turn and loved to ride to the very top and back down again in a circle. Little did she know that she was learning about the center of rotation at the same time!

Ferris Wheel

A Ferris Wheel

When you look at a Ferris wheel, you notice that it turns around the center of itself on a rod. It almost looks like a spinner on a game board. The part in the middle stays still and the spinner moves around it. If you were looking at a picture of a spinning Ferris wheel, the part that stays still in the center while it turns, or rotates, is called the center of rotation. If this were a real Ferris wheel, or on any three-dimensional object, the center of rotation would be called the axis.

Not Always the Middle


On a two-dimensional drawing, the center of rotation does not have to be the middle of the picture like it was with the Ferris wheel. Remember, it is just the point that the picture turns on. For example, if you stuck a pin in the little letter A on the picture of the red X and turned the paper in a circle, the A would be the center of rotation because the whole picture of the X would turn around the pin.

Take your pencil and draw any picture on a piece of paper. Now put your pencil point anywhere on the picture you drew. Hold your pencil straight up so only the lead is touching the paper. Turn the picture in a circle around the pencil point without lifting the pencil. When you lift the pencil up, the dot your pencil leaves on the paper is the center of rotation. The picture rotated, or turned, around it.

Now move your pencil point to another place on your picture. Hold it there and turn the paper around the point again. This time, the new dot made by your pencil is the center of rotation. In fact, anywhere you put your pencil point and turn the paper around it becomes the center of rotation. The center of rotation changes to wherever the point is placed.

Center of Rotation on a Cow?

Cow Spinning

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