PASCO MatchGraph! and Wireless Motion Sensor Review

Note: WeAreTeachers and PASCO asked me to review the Wireless Motion Sensor and MatchGraph! Software. This sponsored post contains my own opinions.

Early in my Physics teacher career I wasted far too many hours graphing position-time graphs on a tiny graphing calculator screen to lackluster results. I had abandoned this activity for years until this small and mighty motion sensor found its way to me.

This is the PASCO PS-3219 Wireless Motion Sensor. Combined with the (free) PASCO MatchGraph! software, you can track the position, velocity, and acceleration of objects, showing the graphed results in real-time on your screen.

What intrigued me is how much more engaging this would be than what I had previously tried.  Students try to match the graph on the screen (hence MatchGraph!) by moving their own bodies closer or farther from the motion sensor.  

The icing on the cake is that the software is constantly scoring the students’ accuracy and even includes a leaderboard to add a level of competition into the Physics class.

Setup was quick and easy. First, I used the included USB cable to charge the sensor’s battery. Charging only takes a few hours and from what I’ve read it lasts up to 4 months before needing to charge again.  I can handle charging three times a year!

Next, I downloaded the MatchGraph! software onto my iPad and Windows laptop (note: MatchGraph! also works on Mac and Android tablets).  You only need one device to use the software but I wanted to test if there was a difference between the two. In both cases MatchGraph! was simple to install and only took a few minutes.  I used my iPad to test the wireless (Bluetooth) option and my Windows laptop to test the wired (USB cable) option.

The software was very intuitive to use. After starting MatchGraph! and selecting the motion sensor, it was just a matter of clicking/tapping the graph I wanted to use and clicking Record. MatchGraph! begins a 3-2-1 countdown and you're off!  

Each wireless motion sensor has a unique code printed on it, so if you are using more than one in your classroom just make sure you check the code before connecting via Bluetooth.  

So far, so good!

After using the motion sensor wired and wirelessly I didn’t notice a difference in the speed or quality of the data.  Using a laptop or iPad didn’t matter either, both were very easy to use. I also tested holding a clipboard versus a larger piece of foam-core board. The larger board was a clear winner because I didn’t need to be as precise while holding it.

After having a blast testing these myself, I used MatchGraph! and the motion sensor with my seniors as a review activity.  I explained how the motion sensor uses ultrasonic echolocation to determine the person’s position and velocity. It did not take me long, just a few minutes, to show the students how they can easily enter their names, switch between position-time and velocity-time graphs, and change the shape of the graph.  Groups of 3-5 students took turns and challenged each other to get better scores (the software tracks the accuracy of the motion to the shape of the graph).

This was amazing!  Not only were the students smiling and laughing - they were learning!  As the students were moving and examining one another’s motion, they were getting review better than any homework, and in much less time.  The feedback is instantaneous, so students quickly adapted their motion to match the graph. The competitive piece - a leaderboard of top scores for each graph - was a motivator for many of these teens.

Fun spin - duplicate and project MatchGraph! on your classroom projector screen!

I’ll use this again (and again, and again) with my Grade 11 students when they are introduced to graphing position-time and velocity-time graphs.  Most students struggle with this concept, so I’m excited to see the improvement in their understanding after getting to physically experience the motion.

The motion sensor has many more uses I’m excited to use with my Physics students.  It is so easy to use the MatchGraph! Software to track the position and velocity of objects moving in one-dimension.  Perfect for my Grade 11 students!

Look at that nice data!

Because the PASCO motion sensor can be used wirelessly it can even be mounted on the ceiling!  I’m envisioning using that feature when students perform terminal velocity inquiry labs. We can also bring the motion sensor on field trips.  I’m excited to take my students curling during our Energy and Momentum unit. In the past we used slow-motion video to estimate the speed of the curling rocks but using the wireless motion sensor will be far more accurate.

MatchGraph! feels like it was designed by a classroom teacher.  PASCO gets teachers. They realize that moving the student is more effective than moving a toy, and that competition will breed excitement and engagement.  I couldn’t have designed this better myself. Seriously… I looked for something missing, but there are even worksheets available on the PASCO site.  All the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed.

I am a huge fan of PASCO’s line of sensors and probes.  Earlier this year my Science department was able to refresh ALL of our dynamics carts (we had the PAScars and upgraded to PASCO Smart Carts... swoon!).  With the new addition of the wireless motion sensor and the MatchGraph! Software I feel like my Physics teaching has leveled up. The labs are higher-quality and the data is much more accurate leading to better learning for my students.  

PASCO’s MatchGraph! + Wireless Motion Sensor is:
-better than homework, students receive instant feedback comparing their motion with the position-time or velocity-time graphs.  
-low cost with high value.
-versatile. These can be used in many applications, even outside of the classroom.
-easily implemented and the free software is intuitive
-really fun for students and teachers!  The competitive leaderboard was a hit with my Physics students.


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