Notes for Science Measurement and Coding Workshop


This workshop will be fun and informative.  We don't expect to cover all this material in one meeting, but this will be a guide to further exploration.


Today, you will learn a bit of coding and how it can be used to enliven and deepen your classes.





This workshop introduces the use of sensors, simple coding and simple materials to perform scientific experiments and explorations.  We will use the Make!Sense sensor interface board and sensors to collect and transmit data to a computer, and use the simple Scratch programming language to collect and display data.  We will also look at other languages like Processing, and other apps including Plot!Sense, which is free with Make!Sense, importing data into Excel, etc.


Workshop Outline


Introduction to Make!Sense, sensors, software. Strengths and limitations.  Why use Scratch? When use Plot!Sense or other?

Note: Make!Sense is also very effective in "makerspace" and invention curricula.

Demonstration of an experimental setup, measurement, graphing, exporting.  Quick start: heartbeat

Make!Sense Scratch "studio" with lots of code examples is here

Introduction and practice with Scratch: heart rate variation of different people, heart rate increase from exercise, horse race

Explanation of keystroke and datastream modes for the Make!Sense board, Scratch and ScratchX

Description of common sensors.  On/off and variable range

Discussion of Plot!Sense.  Show PlotSense with thermistor, heartbeat, two breakbeams  Plot!Sense download

Distribution of equipment and individual experimentation

Sharing of results, suggestions for use and improvement of techniques and experimental design



Make!Sense boards

Any analog sensor can be used with Make!Sense, either resistive or voltage output.  Up to 8 sensor channels can be used.  Make!Sense can be used in "keystroke" mode or datastream mode.  

Configurator and Visualizer software displays sensor values in real time, as well as the keystroke mappings, Configurator/Visualizer download

For science experiments there is also a set of very detailed curriculum guides on this website, farther down under the Make!Science menu tab.



Some Experiments: timing and heart rate and similar on/off sensors work well and simply with Scratch

Scratch results vs Plot!Sense results. Demo heartbeat.  Demo analog sensors with Plot!Sense


Demonstrations of Scratch with heartbeat and breakbeam sensors.  Examine the code. 


--Using keystrokes to start and stop Scratch Timer    Attach a sensor using Make!Sensor to generate keystrokes: first breakbeam then heartbeat.  Modify code to show only the value, not the word "timing"


--Displaying elapsed time between two sensors  Attach two breakbeam sensors to channels 0 and 1


--Saving data in a list Trigger on "A" key, adds each time interval to a running list, use with pendulum or heartbeat


--Heartbeat Simple, shows an image


--Timed Heartrate, Using Math to modify data, elapsed heartbeat interval to BPM (another approach)


--My Heart is Racing  Two players compete in a heartrate-controlled horse race


--Video of teachers in a bone-shaking, heart pounding competition


-- Averaging results:  First try, flawed  taking 10 readings, adding and dividing by 10  Second try, fixed 


--Running heartbeat average over 6 latest data points


--Simple entry x,y graphing with Scratch


--Exporting data from a list in Scratch, and from Plot!Sense


--Show the Make!Sense keystroke mappings   





Gravitational Constant

Falling ball, meter stick, tape, two breakbeam sensors, half-open door

"Simplest Scratch Elapsed Time Two Sensors" on the Make!Sense Scratch Studio

Scratch program is here



Cardboard ramp, toy car or ball, meter stick, breakbeam sensors



Slow Roller: CD, faucet washer, dowel, meter sticks, breakbeam sensor(s).

Bicycle Wheel: upended bicycle, tape, breakbeam sensor


Pendulum dynamics:

Ball, string, tape, meter stick, breakbeam sensor


Heart Rate:

Heart rate sensor


For analog continuous values, it's best to use Plot!Sense or Processing

However, it's also possible to set Make!Sense in keystroke mode to report 8, 16 or 32 values for an analog sensor



Air temperature variations: thermistor sensor

Liquid temperature: ice water or boiling water, submersible temperature sensor


Evaporation of water:

Air and moisture sensors, sponge or paper towel, fan or sunlight



Use the Make!Sense alligator clip connector to make a voltage divider

Thermistor or photocell on one leg, and fixed resistor on the other

White cable is "signal" so sensor can go between white and black

Fixed resistor can go between white and red



Data Gathering



Coding a software stopwatch using keypresses in Scratch

Replacing the keypresses with a sensor

Capturing sequential readings, displaying, storing and exporting them


Data Manipulation

Determining the consistency of sensor readings in a given experimental setup: repeat the same data gather many times

Recognizing and discarding outliers

Averaging a number of data values


Data Display


Simple Graphing of data in Scratch

Time Graphs

Bar graphs

Changing the sampling rate in Plot!Sense

When to use Scratch, Plot!Sense, Excel