LEGO Robotics and the Sine Wave

For a grade 10 math class, students were asked to create a Ferris wheel in order to plot a sine wave. I thought it would be interesting to create a Ferris wheel using the LEGO NXT Mindstorms kit in conjunction with the NXT Data Logging software. It turns out, you can get some pretty neat measurements from this little experiment. The photos below show the final Ferris wheel and the data logging screen.

lego_sine_wave data logging

By attaching an ultrasonic sensor to one of the rungs of the wheel, I was able to run the data logging software to display the distance from the table surface to the senor. As I turned the wheel, the sensor measured the distance every second. The graphs were a little messy but if the “seconds between measurement” value is adjusted to 5, we can create a cleaner sine wave.

This is a great example of using the NXT kit to gather data as opposed to it’s more regular use (programming the robot to perform a task). It’s also a significant example of demonstrating an abstract concept. The visualization of a Ferris wheel producing a sine wave as the wheel turned could enhance the learner’s mental construct of a sine wave.

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