The databot Game – Whirling Dervish

Super Dervish
Fearless Dervish Janet Set the Tone for CAST 2019

The Dervish Spins Up Some Multi-Sensory STEM Action

The databot™ Game crew spun up a brand new challenge at the CAST show in Dallas, Texas recently.  Nearly 120 educators, administrators, and even hotel employees competed to demonstrate a level head and a strong grasp of angular velocity. 

The databot™ Game  provides a framework for engaging students to physically interact with the invisible world of data that surrounds us.   Each time we develop a new game, we are thinking about the sensors, the data they collect, and how we can use that data in a meaningful way that students will remember.  If we can construct a multi-sensory experience that is relevant and engaging while simultaneously imparting core ideas and concepts, we are well on our way to a high level of learning retention.

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For this new databot™ Game, “Whirling Dervish,” we again used the accelerometer that was so successful in the Ninja Walk game we published recently.  Pulling acceleration due to gravity at 9.8 m/s2 into the game has proven a fantastic standard element to a whole series of games we are discussing.   The idea is to keep the accelerometer precisely level to display 9.8 m/s2 while conducting some other activity.   Students will never forget 9.8 m/s2, nor will they forget that this invisible force is acting on them constantly.  The Whirling Dervish challenges students (and teachers) to place databot™ on their head (on a flat hat – like a Fez) and keep it perfectly level while turning at exactly 1 radian per second!  This game blends math and physics into an incredibly engaging physical experience.

The Whirling Dervish challenge blends physics, math, and a good old fashioned competition of physical skills into a highly effective learning experience!

The Whirling Dervish Challenge



Using all of your scientific knowledge of acceleration, and all the athleticism at your disposal, complete the Whirling Dervish challenge by carefully balancing databot™on your head (perfectly level will display 9.8m/s2 on your data display) while simultaneously rotating at a speed of 1 radian per second.

  • We will set up a custom experiment for you  to clearly capture and document your effort.
  • You will be presented with a databot streaming live data for visualization.
  • Once you are ready to begin your “Whirling Dervish” we will begin your data recording!
  • The winner will be the participant with the combined best score of rotation + balance. 

CAST teachers embraced their “Inner Dervish” and turned out some incredible efforts!

Playing the Game

Shown here is an Excel Dashboard for the Whirling Dervish challenge. Using Windows 10 and Office 365 you can easily enable an Excel Add In called Data Streamer that enables the live streaming and display of serial data from databot.

Learning Opportunities: Playing the Whirling Dervish game with students is a great opportunity to teach a number of concepts including velocity vs. acceleration, acceleration due to gravity, radians vs. degrees, and angular velocity.  Think about your  particular objectives, introduce the concepts, then play the game!

How to Play: Have each student place databot™ on their head using a flat hat (if you can’t find a Fez use an alternative, a disposable, individual-use hat liner is recommended).   Have them carefully watch the Y axis reading and challenge them to hold a perfect 9.8 m/s2 stance.  Next, rotate at 1 radian per second for a full turn.  Record results and repeat for next student!

The CAST Competitors

Top Dog Dervish in Dallas Revealed!

The winning Dervish, Katie from St. Andrews Episcopal School, won by a fraction as you can see!  With over 120 Dervish entries we were amazed at the final results. We had a 4-way tie with perfect averages recorded, so we needed to calculate the maximum range off the target value to determine the final winner.  This kind of data analysis is an invaluable lesson for students as they work to determine the outcome of a real world problem, and one that is of particular interest to them – everybody wants to be a winning Dervish!

Finally, thanks to all the Dervish who competed – incredible good sports and good fun by all at CAST. Overall, the entire event was fun, engaging, and educational!

Lynsie, left, and Katie, right, were champion whirlers and Katie won the grand prize by a fraction. Great work whirlers!

What Have We Learned as We Whirl?

Whirl and Learn

What are some of the learning objectives that can result from our whirl-wind introduction to acceleration and angular velocity?

  1. Acceleration is the rate at which an object changes its velocity.  If an object’s speed is constant there is no acceleration. Dervish will see this when they rotate at a constant speed, struggling to hit a perfect 1 radian per second turn rate.
  2. The units for acceleration is meters per second squared (m/s2).
  3. Gravity is a force that acts upon bodies all the time, at rest or in motion. 
  4.  Acceleration due to gravity on Earth, “g,’ is 9.8 m/sec2
  5. Motion and force have direction which can be expressed using a 3 dimensional coordinate system with 3 axes, x, y, and z.
  6. An accelerometer is an electromechanical device that measures acceleration.
  7.  A gyroscope is an electromechanical device that measures angular velocity and orientation.
  8. Radians are an alternative unit to degrees.

For more in-depth analysis, this experiment provides a good jumping off point for a number of additional investigations, and the engagement generated by the gamification of a simple challenge can help drive those investigations.

If you have ideas for a great data game challenge using databot, please contact us and let us know.  We’ll publish it for all to share and enjoy!

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About the Author

Robert Grover is a proponent of STEAM education and educational technology that helps engage and develop the students of today into the thoughtful leaders of tomorrow.