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Motion expedition

Mission 3 of 3

Motion Ball


1 hour

Ages 8+

Learn about 3D motion and its relation to an X, Y, and Z axis.

Piperbot and Pip have stumbled across a Mars Ball field, and Piperbot is currently learning about motion in the 3 dimensions. Discuss motion across the x, y, and z axes, and use the gyroscopic sensor in the ball you build to measure the changes in all three as you play a game of catch.

View student interface at




Computer with USB port and Chrome or Edge browser
Piper Make Starter Kit
Piper Make Motion ball


Learning Goals

  1. Students will learn about roll, pitch, and yaw as they relate to the X, Y, and Z axis.  
  2. Students will understand how to measure roll, pitch, and yaw.  
  3. Students will learn how to plot data onto a graph using a sensor.  
  4. Students will learn about absolute values.  
  5. Students will gain an understanding of the word axis and the term plural axes. 

Learning Activities

The following sections will contain step by step instructions for ELA, ELD and Math extensions directly related to this mission. Adjust the directions to fit your ELA, ELD and Math standards.

ELA Extension: Sports Analysis

To start, ask your students: What is your favorite sport? If their sport includes a ball for gameplay, ask your students to draw how it looks. If the sport does not require a ball (swimming, running, etc.), have them draw a stick figure of how athletes move in the sport. 

  • Students will create a journal to track their ideas and reflect on this mission. Start with the following question:  
  • What do you think of when you hear the word energy? Have students write 1-2 sentences on what energy means to them. Many students think of how energetic they feel!  
  • Next, students will play the Energy Transfer Game and reflect on the prompts below with 3-4 sentences each. 
  • Energy Transfer Game: To illustrate that energy can be transferred, have everyone in the room act tired. Create an energy transfer where one “energetic” student taps another on the shoulder to transfer their energy. Like a game of telephone, have them pass the energy through to the end.  
  • After playing the Energy Transfer Game, ask students to answer the following questions:
    • How did the game help you understand energy?  
    • How can it be transferred?  
    • Can you think of anything else that can transfer energy?  
  • Potential vs. Kinetic: Explain that energy can be stored as potential energy or spent as kinetic energy.  
  • Have students list 2 examples of potential and kinetic energy and write one thing they still have questions about.  
  • Draw and explain an example of a situation where potential energy is waiting to transfer to become kinetic energy.  
  • Show your class the following examples and ask students which has more potential energy:
    • An object dropped from a little off the ground vs. one dropped from high off the ground.
      • Answer: High off the ground (more distance) 
    • A heavy object vs. a light object dropped from the same height.
      • Answer: Heavy object (more mass)  
  • Drop an example of each item and see which falls faster to demonstrate which has more kinetic energy (converted from potential).  
  • Kick a Ball: Have students crumple up a sheet of paper (or use a ball) and have a student come up and kick one. Just before kicking, tell them to freeze and look at where their foot is. Tell them that potential energy gets transferred from their foot to the ball’s kinetic energy.  
  • Have students reflect on the following three prompts:
    • State 2-3 things you learned. 
    • Tell me 1-2 questions you still have about the subject. 
    • Name 1-2 ideas about things you want to learn after this activity. 


Hardware Diagram

Code Diagram

Tutorial Steps



Troubleshooting Tips

  • The colors of the wires on your 4-pin cable can vary, so it is important to match the pins on your sensor module to the correct connections on your breadboard. 
  • Remember, the DIGITAL VIEW is a handy way to see the GPIO pin locations. For this circuit, you will connect:
    • GND to G (ground) 
    • SDA to GP20 
    • SCL to GP21 
    • VCC to 3V 
  • In Step 2, when creating the variable for the Z-rotation, the logic block absolute is in the drop-down menu that says square root. 

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Material Library

A servo, which is short for servomotor, is a special kind of motor that is used to control something by moving it. A simple motor moved by spinning continuously. A servo turns to a specific position and it uses gears to transform the high speed of the motor into more force so it can move things more easily.

The servo is connected using three wires: one for ground, one for power, and one for a signal that tells the servo motor what position to turn to. The Pico tells the servo what position to turn to by changing the width of the pulse that it is sending out. A pulse with a shorter "ON" time will turn to one side, and a pulse with a longer "ON" time will turn to the opposite side.

The motor inside of the servo turns very fast, but it is also weak - it cannot apply very much force. The gears inside the servo convert the motor's high speed and low force into a slower speed with more force.

Career Connections

Robotics Technician: Salary $60,570/yr
Automotive Engineer: Salary $95,300/yr
Civil Engineer: Salary $88,050/yr
Industrial Designer: Salary $75,910/yr

Standards Alignment

CSK12 Framework
  • CA 3-5.AP.17. Test and debug a program to ensure it accomplishes the intendedtask.
  • CA 3-5.CS.2. Demonstrate how computer hardware and software work together as a system to accomplish tasks.
  • CA 3-5.CS.3. Determine potential solutions to solve simple hardware and software problems using common troubleshooting strategies.
Math ELA
  • Grade 3: writing applications-2.1, 2.2;
  • Written and Oral English Language Conventions - 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.7, 1.8
  • Grade 4: writing strategies-1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.10, Writing applications - 2.1
  • Grade 5: Writing strategies-1.1, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6; writing applications - 2.1
  • Grade 3: ELD.PI.A.3.1, ELD.PI.A.3.2, ELD.PI.B.3.5, ELD.PI.B.3.6, ELD.PI.C.3.10, ELD.PII.C.3.6
  • Grade 4: ELD.PI.A.4.1, ELD.PI.A.4.2, ELD.PI.B.4.5, ELD.PI.B.4.6, ELD.PI.C.4.10,ELD.PII.C.4.6
  • Grade 5: ELD.PI.A.5.1, ELD.PI.A.5.2, ELD.PI.B.5.5, ELD.PI.B.5.6, ELD.PI.C.5.10, ELD.PII.C.5.6