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Sphero Mini Sensor Board for High School and College First-Year Physics Labs

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John Conrad John Conrad 176 Points

I conceived the idea for this project in the spring of 2020 as I was making the abrupt transition to remote teaching of my first-year physics classes at Furman University. For the then-upcoming fall semester of 2020, I was scheduled to teach two sections of General Physics I (classical mechanics). I knew that to do an acceptable job teaching the labs in the fall semester, and I needed to start planning immediately and work over the summer to prepare. The idea was that the students could use the 3-axis accelerometer and 3-axis rotational velocity sensor on a Sphero Mini’s Bluetooth-connected IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) to take data for various “at-home” physics labs that I would develop. I knew enough about the Sphero Mini environment to know that the excellent user-friendly graphical user interface of the Sphero EDU app would allow the students to record and send the data to their mobile devices easily. 

My primitive early attempts can be seen in my Furman Physics YouTube Channel video At Home Physics Labs with Sphero Sensor Board. Based on those initial results, Sphero partnered with us to generously provide 44 Sphero Minis to the Furman Physics department.  You can view a quick overview of the project by watching the Furman Sphero Mini Sensor Board Project video. More detail is available in my blog, How to Use A Sphero Mini Sensor Board for First-Year Physics Labs. The technical details of extracting the physics sensor board from a Sphero Mini are presented in Physics Sensor Data Acquisition Tool From a Sphero Mini. While we may never need to return to large-scale remote instruction, I believe the project has applicability to:

  • First-year physics university and high school labs
  • Studio physics courses
  • In-person and remote use
  • Inquiry-based labs
  • Individual student STEM special projects
  • Science fair and robotics club projects
  • Makerspace projects
  • Science Centers and Museums

John Conrad John Conrad 176 Points

Here is a followup to my post of Nov. 22, 2022

I am pleased to inform you that my manuscript 'Sphero Mini Sensor Board for First-Year Physics Labs” has just been published in The Physics Teacher (Volume 62, Issue 5).  It may be accessed via the link:

Sincere thanks to all who contributed to this project. This effort would not have been possible without Sphero's generous donation and technical staff support. Thanks also to my colleagues and teaching assistants in the Furman Physics department, the Lab Kit recipients, and—most of all—my students in Physics 111 during the pandemic.


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