App of the Week: Capturing the physics all around us

Ed. note: App of the Week picks are now being curated with help from the editors of, a free service from Common Sense Education. Click here to read the full app review.

Playground Physics

What’s It Like? Playground Physics is part of the New York Hall of Science’s (NYSCI) “Noticing Tools” suite of apps. Students use the iPad to shoot video of any motion they’d like, whether it’s their friends running around or playing on playground equipment, tennis balls flying across the room, or more controlled lab experiments. After tagging key frames in the video to create motion tracks and adjusting the scale for accurate measurements, the program then measures speed, position, direction, energy, and force. These measurements are displayed with meters and time-coded graphs along with the video.

Price: $3

Grades: K-10

Pros: Gets kids moving their bodies to explore science; the interface is ridiculously easy to use, and there are tons of available resources and lesson plans.

Cons: Motion tracks have to be built by hand, so it’s not as magical as specialized data-logging hardware. Generated graphs can’t easily be exported.

Bottom line: This is a cheap way to get students out of their chairs to make physics real and tangible, empowering learners and encouraging curiosity.

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