Vernier Photogate


Contributors: bri_huang


In this project tutorial, we will show you how to create a cheap but accurate photogate (similar to the one pictured below) for use in classroom applications, particularly physics experiments.

alt text

This project started as part of a grant I co-authored for my classroom. The grant, called Physics and Instructional Resource (PAIR), is designed to help support physics teachers in need of content or material resources. The grant pairs together a classroom teacher with a physics professional to develop new materials and resources for the classroom. I had the idea of integrating an Arduino with and LCD screen to create a hand-held photogate timer like this one:

alt text

These smart timer units are costly ($200-$300 each), they require a power adapter, and the user interface is not customizable. With the flexibility and low cost of the Arduino platform, we set out to develop a unique solution that we could integrate into a Physics First program for freshman at the high school. Our school has access to a large supply of Vernier hardware and photogates, but but the use of these are restricted to the physics lab where we have computers to perform the data collection and analysis.

I was looking for a simple, portable device to interface these sensors. Using an Arduino seemed like a pretty straight-forward solution.

Required Materials

If you would like to follow along an build your own photogate timer(s), you will need the following:

Suggested Reading

This tutorial builds on several other concepts. Please familiarize yourself with the concepts below if you are familiar already.

Want more information about SparkFun's classes? Interested in getting involved with teaching electronics? Just want to talk? Sign up for our newsletter, or contact our education department.

SparkFun is a company built around one core idea – sharing ingenuity. We think everyone should have the hardware and resources to learn and play with cool electronic gadgetry.

Share, give, learn, SparkFun.

Do you regularly instruct classes and workshops in a formal or informal learning environment? SparkFun offers Educator Discounts to people teaching and sharing electronics.

Find out more.