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A Digital Test-Your-Strength Carnival Machine


Students create their own digital version of a test-your-strength game, known as carnival hammer game or high striker. They use motion (acceleration) sensors to measure force and understand the underlying physical principles.


  • Students will be able to:
  • Understand how acceleration relates to force
  • Implement a program to process sensor data
  • Design an engaging user interface (UI)
  • Design a device with both hardware and software
  • Choose methods for processing data
  • Iterate and improve design solutions
  • Improve problem-solving and communication skills

Required Prior Knowledge:

Familiarity with the concept of acceleration is helpful.


  • STEMgem kit with motion sensor, 1 per group of 2-3 students
  • A springy plate and soft hammer or similar items that students can use to build (a makerspace would be perfect for this activity!)
  • Internet-capable device for programming (e.g. tablet, large enough phone)




What happens at a carnival hammer game? How is "strength" measured? (Force)

Carnivals are temporary, and those tall game installations are difficult to transport - how can we redesign it? If time permits, let students sketch 2-3 ideas.

If students are unfamiliar with STEMgem, introduce them with example: connect a sensor & make an app (see guidebook)

What sensor would we use for this? (Acceleration / motion)

How do acceleration and force relate? (F=m*a, so proportional)

If students are unfamiliar with the word "acceleration", set a few minutes aside to make sure everyone gets comfortable using it and understand how it relates to gravity (which they will observe when they connect the sensor).

Breakout Session / Design and Making

Go build! Form groups of 2-3 students.

Remind students it's an iterative process with intermediate testing and adjusting. Students can tinker with physical shape and appearance as well as technological concepts and user interface (UI), including voice output.

A springy plate works the best, but students can create their own setup as well.


Experiment and Evaluate

Test your creation! Does it fulfill all design requirements?

Who is stronger? Have a competition!


Every student briefly presents to the class what they have made, what their vision was, and how they might add to it in the future.


Students use worksheets to evaluate their progress towards relevant State standards or NGSS learning goals.

Take-Home Assignment:

Students document their design process and result in writing and using photos and videos they took in a digital design journal on


SEPS.1 Posing questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering).
SEPS.2 Developing and using models and tools.
SEPS.3 Constructing and performing investigations.
SEPS.4 Analyzing and interpreting data.
SEPS.5 Using mathematics and computational thinking.
SEPS.6 Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering).
SEPS.7 Engaging in argument from evidence.
SEPS.8 Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information.
MS-ETS1 Engineering Design
Data and Information
Computing Devices and Systems
Programs and Algorithms
Impact and Culture
Networking and Communication
General Technological Concepts
Developing / Engineering Technology
Assessing Technological Actions
Producing / Using Technology
Crosscutting Concepts
Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World

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