It’s a good sign when you find a simple device to help teach a complicated idea. The DynaKar, invented by ScienceScope, is an example of that and it was a finalist for a BETT Award in 2013.
Never mind the spelling, DynaKar (£tba) is a toy-like car and software. It is a standalone kit that aims to simplify the study of forces and motion. The car will roll along a table and tell the computer how far it has travelled. It has a sensor that watches the wheels rotate and it transmits its calculations to the computer via Bluetooth. Its only button turns it on or off. It is remarkable how much dynamics it can cover without adding yet more wire to physics equipments. And the results are indeed lovely.
Start the car rolling down a sloped table and the software will plot a distance-time graph on screen. Drag over the graph with the software and you can measure the graph’s area and gradient. You might then make a series of graphs at different slopes of the table. Keep experimenting and you’ll learn about velocity, acceleration; momentum and kinetic energy. You can measure ‘g’ (gravity) and study harmonic motion and aerodynamic drag.
In the past we would have used ‘ticker-tape’ devices and light gates to teach this and, just sometimes, even confused ourselves. Here is technology with a chance to make things simple instead of making things different. And DynaKar was one of the best science things to see at BETT 2013.