Physics Lab: An Introduction to G-Force

My friend Bill Cloyd runs a non-profit company in Lexington, Kentucky called Newtons Attic.   The company focuses on Engineering and Physics education for kids.  Billy runs day camps, week camps and after school camps for primary school kids.  In these camps/classes the kids build robots, catapults, cross-bows, Rube Goldberg machines, fly drones etc. uising the tools in the machine shop at the Newtons Attic Campus.  This is the perfect place for budding engineers and scientists.  In addition to this he does road shows with his crazy machines.

One of the machines (called G-Force) is 120′ long track with a spring activated car.   One end of the track curves up to the sky.  This is an excellent platform for teaching kids about Newtons Laws.  Here are a couple of pictures:




When high-school physics classes visit Newtons Attic they take “data” using stop watches etc and then try to match their observations to the predictions that result from Newtons Law.  I always felt that this process would greatly benefit from some automation.   I have launched into a project to build an electronic system that can attach to the car and collect and transmit the kinematic data from the car.  For those of you who have forgotten kinematic data is position, velocity and acceleration.

To do this I am building a system around the new Cypress PSoC4-BLE chip.  The system will have the following “sensors”

1. A Linear Encoder attached to a wheel running along the track

2. A 3-Axis Accelerometer

3. A 3-Axis Gyro

4. A 3-Axir Magnetometer

5. A Spansion (now Cypress) SPI Flash to record the data

6. An Air Pressure Sensor and a Relative Humidity Sensor (which I will use to calculate the Air Density)

The PSoC4-BLE will collect the data from these sensor and broadcast the data to any BLE Enabled device (iPhone, Android Phone).

The last part of the system will be a Swift App (running on iPhone) and a Java App (running on Android) to collect and display the data.

In the next bunch of posts you will be able to follow me through the Schematic Design, Board Design, Firmware Development, Board Manufacturing and App development process.


Index Description
Physics Lab: An Introduction to G-Force Introduction
Physics Lab: The Rotary Encoder Measuring position