Review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2016
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VelocityLab

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Turn anything with wheels into a handy motion sensor

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Science

Skills
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
6-12
Common Sense says (See details)
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Pros: Data about velocity and acceleration streams in real time, allowing kids to build a deeper understanding of motion.

Cons: Could use more tips on how to attach the sensor to different wheels.

Bottom Line: Pair your device with PocketLab sensors to gather position, velocity, and acceleration data on anything that rolls.

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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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, iPad, or Chromebook. 

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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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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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

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?

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?

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.


Common Sense Reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

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