Impacting the risk of falling: How do Accelerometers work?

Injuries due to falling are an important health concern in the US.  According to the National Institute of Health, falls are the most common accident in individuals over the age of 65.  In the year 2010 there were 4.1 deaths per 100,000 people per year in the country.  In this Problem Based Learning Activity students will explore the physics behind center of gravity and tipping point as they seek to understand the mechanisms behind people losing their balance.  Students will explore the One Health Initiative and experiment with accelerometers to learn how researchers in the ASSIST (Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Technology) program are working to design wearable self-powered devices that can prevent accidents and illness.

Students will work with accelerometers that can be found in the TI sensor tags, on iPads, on most cell phones, etc.  In this lesson the accelerometer the students will use is the SparkView application from PASCO and the accelerometer that is built into their ios device. Students will experiment, collect and analyze data and determine thresholds for falling.  At the end of the project each group of students must be able to explain how their accelerometer works.  Each group must also show how they have visualized and analyzed the data to determine accelerometer readings that will indicate situations where the person is capable of falling.  Students will prepare a lab report at the end of the project and present their findings to the class.

Author: Evelyn Baldwin

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