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Understanding Motion I – Distance and Time

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PASCO scientific         Physics Experiment Library: 06020

Science Workshop                P01 Understanding Motion 1

Experiment P01:

Understanding Motion I – Distance and Time
(Motion Sensor)

Concept: linear motion

Time: 30 m

SW Interface: 500 & 700

Macintosh® file: P01 Understanding Motion 1

Windows® file: P01_MOT1.SWS


•        Science Workshop™ Interface

•        base and support rod

•        motion sensor


The purpose of this activity is to introduce the relationships between the motion of an object – YOU – and a Graph of position and time for the moving object.

NOTE: This activity is easier to do if you have a partner to run the computer while you move.


When describing the motion of an object, knowing where it is relative to a reference point, how fast and in what direction it is moving, and how it is accelerating (changing its rate of motion) is essential. A sonar ranging device such as the Motion Sensor uses pulses of ultrasound that reflect from an object to determine the position of the object. As the object moves, the change in its position is measured many times each second. The change in position from moment to moment is expressed as a velocity (meters per second).

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Science Workshop file titled as shown:

Macintosh: P01 Understanding Motion 1

Windows: P01_MOT1.SWS

•        The document has a Graph display of Position (m) and Time (sec). The Graph shows Position and Time values that were put into the Graph using the “Load Data…” feature (see the User’s Guide for Science Workshop).

•        (Note: For quick reference, see the Experiment Notes window. To bring a display to the top, click on its window or select the name of the display from the list at the end of the Display menu. Change the Experiment Setup window by clicking on the “Zoom” box or the Restore button in the upper right hand corner of that window.)

4.        The "Sampling Options…" for this experiment are as follows: Periodic Samples = Fast at 10 Hz, Digital Timing = 10000 Hz, and Stop Condition with Time = 10.00 seconds.

PART II: Sensor Calibration and Equipment Setup

•        You do not need to calibrate the motion sensor.

1.        Mount the motion sensor on a support rod so that it is aimed at your midsection when you are standing in front of the sensor.

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your best position vs. time plot. Click the “Statistics” button and then click the “Autoscale” button to resize the graph to fit the data.

2.        Use the mouse to click-and-draw a rectangle around the middle section of your plot. Use the “Statistics” menu button in the Statistics area of the Graph. Select “Linear Fit” from the Curve Fit menu to display the slope of the selected region of your position vs time plot.

•        The “a2” term of the equation in the Stats area is the slope of the selected region of motion. The slope of this part of the position vs. time plot is the velocity during the selected region of motion.

4.        Determine how well your plot of motion fits the plot that was already in the Graph. Examine the “total abs. difference” (total absolute difference) and the chi^2 (goodness of fit) terms from the Statistics area.


1.        In the Graph, what is the slope of the line of best fit for the middle section of your plot?

2.        What is the description of your motion? (Example: “Constant speed for 2 seconds followed by no motion for 3 seconds, etc.”)

dg        ©1996, PASCO scientific        P01 -

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