PocketLab Voyager Rides the Intelino Train

by Professor Rich Born


There is a new train out there - the “intelino® smart train, the classic toy train reinvented", according to the developer. Designed for all ages, it is intuitive with its app, has built-in sensors to provide an interactive experience for the user, and is easily programmed with color snaps that allow the user to control intelino's actions. Attach a PocketLab Voyager to the top of the intelino smart engine as shown in Figure 1, and you have a great way for children from 4th grade through middle school to study physical science motion concepts. This lesson describes how these young students can learn the concept of speed in a fun way that also challenges their intellect.

Figure 1 - Voyager rides the intelino smart train

The PocketLab Voyager/intelino Speed Challenge

Here is the challenge for your students:

"Design an intelino track layout and accompanying Voyager experiment that will allow you to determine the three intelino "autopilot" speeds (slow, medium, and fast) from data collected by PocketLab Voyager. All three speeds should be obtainable from a single run of Voyager/intelino on the track layout. Once the train has been started, no more interaction with the intelino app is allowed. The intelino app can run on one device, while the PocketLab app runs on a second device. You can make use of the six provided magnets and a meter stick. How do the three speeds from the Voyager data compare to those shown on the intelino autopilot speedometer? Do the speeds change very much when the intelino engine is pulling the train wagon?"

A Typical Solution to the PocketLab Voyager/intelino Challenge

Figure 2 shows the setup used by the author of this lesson. Several notations have been included as an aid to understanding the setup. Adjustments may be necessary if the number of track pieces available is more limited. The intelino engine is placed on the track with its front facing down in Figure 1. The forward direction is selected on the intelino app. With the PocketLab app running on one device and the number of data points set to 50 points/second, recording of data is started. The engine is then started by selecting any one of the three speed buttons on the intelino app. The engine will move in the direction shown by the blue arrow at the bottom of Figure 1.

When the engine reaches the "slow speed snaps" (white, green), the front color sensor under the engine will change the speed to slow (if it is not already running at slow speed). Magnets (red) are placed three straight track lengths apart (about 72 cm) with their poles oriented in the same direction up and down. The PocketLab app will show a strong increase in magnetic field magnitude when PocketLab is close to the magnets.

When the engine reaches the "medium speed snaps" (white, green, green), the front color sensor will change the speed to medium. Magnets (green) are placed three straight track lengths apart. The magnet's poles are reversed from the poles for the slow speed to differentiate them in the PocketLab app graph.

When the engine reaches the switch track, "turn left snaps" (blue, red, red) tell the engine to make a left turn. When the engine reaches the "fast speed snaps" (white, green, green, green), the speed of the engine changes to fast. The PocketLab app records the magnetic field strength as peaks at each of the yellow magnets. Again, the poles of the yellow magnets are reversed so that they can be differentiated easily on the PocketLab app.

When the engine reaches the "end route snaps" (white, red, blue), the engine stops.

Figure 2 -Typical speed experiment setup


The following 20-second video shows a run of the experiment on the author's setup. You should notice the spikes in the magnetic field strength when the intelino train and PocketLab pass by each of the magnets. The speed is easily determined by dividing the distance between magnet pairs by the time between the corresponding peak pairs.

Data Analysis

Figure 3 shows an Excel graph created from PocketLab data collected during a typical run of the experiment. The six magnetic field peaks are shown with the time for each peak along with the color of the magnet for each peak. The time for Voyager/intelino to traverse the path between the red magnets was 6.48 s - 4.08 s = 2.40 s. The speed is then computed by dividing the distance traveled (72 cm) by 2.40 s, with a resultant speed of 30 cm/s. In a similar manner, the medium and fast speeds are computed. These PocketLab speeds compare well to the speeds that were shown on the intelino speedometer.

Figure 3 - Graph of magnetic field vs. time