Ninja Walk – a databot Game!

by Robert O. Grover

The Databot Game fired up an intense new challenge recently. We were in Salt Lake City at the NSTA Regional Conference attended by thousands of science educators. The Databot Game is a fun approach to exploring the invisible world of data that surrounds us.   It facilitates learning about sensor data in a way that naturally engages students in learning core science concepts addressed by databot’s on-board sensors. Databot’s sensors were specifically designed to provide a plethora of options for educators to teach Earth Science, Physics, Chemistry, Life Science, and even Environmental Science.

The Ninja Walks Tonight

Ninja Walk databot Game | Educational Innovations Blog
Top style points to Ninja Janet.

For our newest and most physical Databot Game, we went all Physics. We selected the accelerometer for the challenge – a fun event we dubbed “the Ninja Walk.”  Databot’s accelerometer is a tiny electro-mechanical device that measures acceleration forces like gravity, movement, and vibrations.  It’s the perfect combination for identifying the perfect Ninja while simultaneously teaching students about the invisible forces that act on them constantly, whether they are in motion or standing still.

Ninja Walk databot Game | Educational Innovations Blog
The Ninja Walk makes students aware of invisible forces, such as gravity, that are acting on us all the time.

The Ninja Walk Challenge

OFFICIAL RULES – Ninja Walk

Using all of your scientific knowledge of acceleration, and all the athleticism at your disposal, complete the Ninja walk by transporting databot from point A to B to C with the least acceleration possible on the databot X axis.

  • We will set up a custom experiment for you in Google Science Journal to clearly capture and document your effort.
  • You will be presented with a databot streaming live data to Google Science Journal.
  • Once you are ready to begin your “Ninja Walk,” we will begin your data recording.
  • The winner will be the participant with the lowest “peak” movement on the accelerometer X axis, either positive or negative. In the event of a tie, we will move to the lowest total variance +/-.

When it became clear that the best scoring Ninja Walk would be taking home a full databot kit worth $179.95, the competitive spirit emerged in this crowd of science teachers. Over the course of two days, we saw more than 60 Ninja Walk participants!

Ninja Walk databot Game | Educational Innovations Blog

Playing the Game

If you’re playing the Ninja Walk game with students, the set-up for the walk is a great opportunity to reinforce concepts about acceleration, gravitational force, and the 3D coordinate system. Our Ninja Walking teachers were all given the opportunity to view the real-time accelerometer display on Google Science Journal as they did some practice moves. It’s a great learning moment to see acceleration due to gravity displayed in real-time at 9.8 m/s2.

Ninja Walk databot Game | Educational Innovations Blog
A tricky mini-challenge is to hold databot and precisely align the plane of the accelerometer to display exactly 9.8 m/s2. By the time you accomplish it, you will know 9.8 m/s2 forever!

The Ninja Walk required not just a steady hand, but a clear understanding of how gravity could affect your score if you tipped databot. You also needed to understand how the change in speed (acceleration) is different than constant speed. The open nature of the rules also encouraged creativity and problem solving. Some teachers even banded together and brought in their own equipment! (Check out the gallery of Ninjas below.)

Science and Stealth Bring Home the Bacon

Ninja Walk databot Game | Educational Innovations Blog

As you can see, the winning Ninja, Lisa from Cedar High School, won by a fraction! With over 60 Ninjas competing, we were amazed at the final results. We had to actually deep dive into the data to two decimal places to break the tie for finest Ninja Walk.

Congratulations to Tanner, Katherine, Lisa, Stephen, Jason, Lindy, Erin, Joel, Lanette, Justin, Newton, & Richard. They all receive honorable mention for keeping their maximum acceleration under 1 meter / s2. Special mention to Janet for the finest Ninja style, to Stephen for his creative interpretation of the rules, and to the A-Team, who went above and beyond securing special equipment and tactics for their attempts. If they’d had a bit more time, we believe their engineering skills might have triumphed.

Finally, thanks to all the Ninjas who competed. The entire event was fun, engaging, and educational for all.

Ninja Walk databot Game | Educational Innovations Blog
Mystery Ninja “Rabbit Ear Lisa” Captures the Grand Prize.

What Have We Learned from Playing Around Like Ninjas?

Learn Like a Ninja

What are some of the learning objectives that can result from our gamified introduction to acceleration and accelerometers?

  1. Acceleration is the rate at which an object changes its velocity.  If an object’s speed is constant, there is no acceleration. Ninjas will see this when they move at a constant speed.
  2. The units for acceleration is meters per second squared (m/s2).
  3. Gravity is a force that acts upon bodies all the time, at rest or in motion. 
  4.  Acceleration due to gravity on Earth, “g,’ is 9.8 m/sec2
  5. Motion and force have direction, which can be expressed using a 3 dimensional coordinate system with 3 axes, x, y, and z.
  6. An accelerometer is an electromechanical device that measures acceleration.

For more in-depth analysis, this experiment provides a good jumping off point for a number of additional investigations, and the engagement generated by the gamification of a simple challenge can help drive those investigations. If you have ideas for a great data game challenge using databot, please let us know in the comments below.

About the Author

Robert O. Grover is a proponent of STEAM education and educational technology that helps turn today’s students into tomorrow’s thoughtful leaders.

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