Common Sense Review
Updated November 2016

VelocityLab

Turn anything with wheels into a handy motion sensor
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating
Not Yet Rated
  • VelocityLab works with a PocketLab sensor to measure the speed, velocity, and acceleration of moving objects.
  • Attach the PocketLab sensor to anything with a wheel.
  • Complete the guided setup on your iPhone or iPad.
  • Ride a bike and collect data on your device.
  • Live data will stream onto your device, ready for analysis.
Pros
Data about velocity and acceleration streams in real time, allowing kids to build a deeper understanding of motion.
Cons
Currently only works with iOS devices and could use more tips on how to attach the sensor to different wheels.
Bottom Line
Pair your iOS device with PocketLab sensors to gather position, velocity, and acceleration data on anything that rolls.
Emily Pohlonski
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 5

Kids love bikes and cars big and small; VelocityLab helps them build science right into their fun.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 5

By watching changes in velocity and acceleration while it's happening, kids begin to see that physics is all around them. Everything suddenly becomes a phenomena to figure out.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

Video user guides on the PocketLab site are helpful in setting up the device. Additional tips on how to attach the sensors to different kinds of wheels are missing.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

VelocityLab is a great way to turn play into science. Use athletic tape to attach the PocketLab sensor onto the spokes of a bike. While one student pedals, the other can see how far and fast she's riding. Students can test and watch what happens to acceleration when you peddle faster; suddenly words such as "velocity" and "acceleration" mean something.

While VelocityLab works on any wheel or gear, teachers may choose to purchase the PocketLab Maker Kit for $118. The kit contains the supplies necessary to build a toy car that runs on air pressure. Alternatively, students can build their own cars and enter into a friendly class-design competition. VelocityLab can then be used to compare their designs.

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What's It Like?

VelocityLab is an app that allows PocketLab sensors to gather position, velocity, and acceleration data directly from any wheel or gear. Kids can attach them to the wheels of their skateboards, their bicycles, or even a real car. While the wheel is moving, the wireless PocketLab sensor sends data in real time to your iPhone or iPad. 

Students can export the data as a CSV file that can be used with a spreadsheet program such as Excel. Alternatively, they can export a snapshot of the graph from the screen of their phone or tablet.

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Is It Good For Learning?

VelocityLab provides new ways of learning about motion. Although there are many roller coaster physics activities out there that allow kids to design and test simulated coasters, with VelocityLab students can actually build a small coaster and attach a PocketLab to the cart. Once it gets rolling, their iPhone will let them examine how the acceleration changes as their carts move down the ramps.

Taking learning into the actual physical world does add expense and time to the lesson, but it also helps kids to truly apply the concepts of motion and acceleration and use them to solve problems. Other apps such as Playground Physics can help kids learn about motion in the real world without the $118 sensor. But VelocityLab lets kids see a graph of the motion instantly while it's happening. 

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See how teachers are using VelocityLab