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Five Ways to Take Physics Learning on the Go with the Go Direct® Acceleration Sensor

With the right tools, your students can explore important physics concepts in the real world—even when they’re traveling. 

A great example of one of these tools is the Go Direct Acceleration Sensor. It’s compact and easy to use, and it gives you the ability to collect acceleration, rotation, and altitude data in the field.

This 3-axis acceleration sensor has two acceleration ranges, plus an altimeter and a 3-axis gyroscope. An additional channel measures the angle of the sensor’s long axis.

I typically carry a Go Direct Acceleration Sensor when I travel, and I’ve used it to collect data around the world (and in the sky). However, you don’t have to go far to experience all of its benefits; I’ve also used this sensor to collect data during 10-minute car rides. 

Whether your students are traveling to school or another country, here are five ways they can engage in hands-on physics learning with the Go Direct Acceleration Sensor when they are on the go.

1. Planes

While you’re flying the friendly skies, you can also learn about physics. For example, takeoff is a great time to collect acceleration data. You’ll get to explore directional acceleration in one dimension and two-dimensional motion (i.e., the plane’s upward acceleration), both of which are key physics concepts. Just be sure to check your airline’s policy before using the Go Direct Acceleration Sensor on a plane.

2. Trains

Similar to takeoff on an airplane, the first five minutes of a train, subway, or streetcar ride are an excellent time to collect acceleration data. And if you happen to be in a place with high-speed trains, your data will be all the more interesting. 

For instance, when I was in Japan, I rode a Shinkansen bullet train—which can go up to 200 miles per hour. Here’s a screenshot of the data I collected:

Even if you’re riding a slower train, this sort of experience lends itself to exploring motion in one dimension and the rate of change of velocity. In addition, because the Go Direct Acceleration Sensor will pick up a train’s vibrations, it gives students a chance to work with an average value that has an uncertainty, which is an important physics skill.

3. Automobiles

Buckle up! The Go Direct Acceleration Sensor can turn any car ride into a data-collection journey. Specifically, when you collect data with the 3-axis accelerometer, it will pick up changes in velocity, such as going up and down a hill, turning right and left, and coming to a stop and starting back up. You can also use the sensor when you’re riding a bus.

In terms of physics concepts, the focus is on three-axis acceleration. In a car, you have three devices that will affect the acceleration data you collect:

  • The gas pedal, which is the “go faster” device
  • The brake pedal, which is the “change your velocity by slowing down” device
  • The steering wheel, which is the “change your direction” device

Here’s a screenshot of the data I collected on a recent commute to work that shows the x-direction acceleration (forward positive) in blue and the y-direction acceleration (left positive) in red:

4. Bikes

A bicycle is also a great way to explore three-axis acceleration. It’s easy to attach the Go Direct Acceleration Sensor to a bike using the included cylinder/tube mounting plate (see the photo below). For more information about how to attach the sensor to a bike or other experimental setup, check out this article.

5. Elevators

The next time you’re traveling, consider taking the Go Direct Acceleration Sensor into the elevator of a tall building. It’s a fun way to investigate the kinematics relationships that are the foundation of the study of motion. For instance, to determine the final velocity of an elevator, you can work backward from the rate of change of velocity and the amount of time. 

When I was in Japan, I visited Tokyo Skytree—the country’s tallest building at 634 meters. In the screenshot below, you can see some acceleration data I collected when the elevator was ascending and descending.

We always enjoy hearing about the ways educators are using our solutions in the classroom or lab and beyond! To share your innovative uses of the Go Direct Acceleration Sensor—or any other Vernier technology—contact us at or 888-837-6437.

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