PocketLab Blog

Did you ever wonder what happens to your packages during shipping?

Have you ever wondered what happens to your package after you put it in the mail? Does the package ever get hot, cold, wet, turned upside down, dropped off the back of a truck, or bitten by a dog while waiting on your doorstep? 

The PocketLab Team has been brainstorming citizen science experiments that users around the world can investigate with us. Join us in the first ever citizen science project that examines the mysteries of what happens to your package when it goes into the mail!

How are we going to do this massive experiment? We will use two new sensors,  PocketLab Voyager and PocketLab Weather currently on sale on Kickstarter, to measure temperature, humidity, altitude, and orientation. PocketLab Voyager and Weather can autonomously record data for months using the on-board memory.

Second, we will conduct this experiment while shipping the PocketLab sensors to Kickstarter customers around the globe. Finally, we will set up a Citizen Science website, where PocketLab users can upload data once they receive their package. Data will be anonymous and participation is of course optional.

Teacher brings her PocketLab on adventure to the South Pole

If you’re on a six-week expedition to the South Pole you have to pack light. It’s a requirement. But if you’re also a high school physics teacher, you can’t resist the opportunity to do some classic experiments at the bottom of the Earth. So, Val Monticue brought a PocketLab.

PocketLab on South Pole
PocketLab chilling at the South Pole. Photo by Val Monticue

Monticue teaches physics at Pinewood High School in Los Altos, Calif. In December she took a leave of absence to go on the adventure of a lifetime--a journey to the South Pole to help with  maintenance and repairs on Bicep3 (Background Imaging for Cosmic Radiation), a telescope that is investigating the birth of the universe, specifically, inflation theory.

While there, Monticue wanted to do experiments that would be interesting to her students back home. She brought a PocketLab because of its durability and versatility. “I like that it’s small and easily portable,” said Monticue. “There was a very strict weight limit that we could have coming and going, so it being small and lightweight while having so many sensors were both very convenient.”

Monticue performed a couple experiments with PocketLab. She investigated the strength of the magnetic field being so close to the magnetic pole and she looked at how quickly the temperature reading would change in the cold based on whether the silicon case was on or off.

“It showed a pretty perfect exponential [change] over time that probably would have matched Newton’s Law of Cooling quite well,” she said.

She also stress tested the PocketLab, noting that the battery and the bluetooth connection worked well in the cold.

You can read more about her work with Bicep3 in this IEEE Spectrum article. From the article:

(Monticue) helped disassemble the telescope, check for leaks in its vacuum jacket, and run tests of different types of refrigeration systems at the various tilt angles of the telescope. “I never got near the real innards,” she said. “People who had worked much longer with the telescope did that. But we were all improving the structure, adding sensors, deciding how to adjust things. It was a matter of fixing lots of little fiddly bits to improve the whole system.” She’s still waiting to hear whether or not the repair effort worked.

On her last day at the Pole, Monticue helped put the whole thing back together.

“The engineering was done, and it was ready for the science to happen,” she says. “Turns out throughout my career I’m always there for the engineering, but not the science.”

Monticue’s background in telescopes is what gave her such a unique opportunity. As an undergrad engineering student at Harvey Mudd College, in Claremont Calif., she researched how to build a telescope on a tower that could withstand the harsh winds of Antarctica.

From IEEE Spectrum:

She was proud of the work she did, designing a control system that could keep the telescope pointed precisely in spite of the challenging environment.

After graduating she found her way to education, and while she loves teaching she still stays involved in the engineering industry. During the summers of 2014 and 2015, through the Industry Initiatives for Science and Math Education (IISME) fellowship program, she worked at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) at Stanford University on the Bicep3. At the end of her time at Kavli, she was invited to go to the South Pole to continue working on the telescope.

Val at South Pole
Val on her Antarctic Adventure. Photo by Val Monticue

For other teachers looking to stay involved in industry, Monticue says IISME is a great program. “They take teachers and place them into industry or research positions for eight weeks during the summer,” Monticue said. “It’s a paid fellowship and an amazing experience for teachers.”

Monticue said her school was incredibly supportive of her during her absence. They even held a one hour all school assembly for her when she returned so she could talk about her experience. In her classroom, Monticue is now able to speak to the roles of science and engineering in research projects like Bicep3.

On her overall experience, Monticue said, “The science is pretty neat, but the people (on the project) and their stories and their adventurousness is incredibly inspiring.” She said many of those on the project, were not researchers, but support staff with a variety of backgrounds, including Mike the Plumber who responded to a Craigslist ad.

“Everyone there was on the same team and everyone wanted everyone else to succeed,” said Monticue. “My experience with the community was just as good as my experience working on the telescope.”

Monticue plans on continuing to use PocketLab in her classroom. Recently she used it to discuss circular motion with her students by swinging it above her head on a string.

“(It) gives a strong acceleration in a consistent (way) ‘along the length of the thing,’” said Monticue. “When students realize that that side is always pointed inward, it gives them a good visual for the direction of centripetal motion.”

Planning to jump out of a spacecraft 24 miles above Earth? Don’t forget your PocketLab!

Exactly 65 years after Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in a Bell X-1 aircraft, Felix Baumgartner did too, but not in an aircraft. He did it by jumping out of one. In a state of the art pressure suit, Baumgartner jumped out of a capsule dangling from a helium balloon that had reached the stratosphere, 24 miles from the surface of the Earth. Before deploying his parachute, Baumgartner reached a top speed of 833.9 mph.

Brian Anderson, Program Developer in the Community Engagement department at Science World holds a PocketLab in front of the actual capsule from the Red Bull Stratos jump.

Now, a little over three years after his daredevil jump, a PocketLab sensor is helping patrons at Science World in Vancouver, British Columbia  understand just how incredible and important his jump was. Science World currently hosts the actual capsule and suit from the jump as part of an exhibit on the Red Bull Stratos jump.

We asked Brian Anderson, Program Developer in the Community Engagement department at Science World, about the exhibit and how they were using PocketLab.

How is PocketLab being used at the exhibit?

A lot of the exhibition explores the challenges of staying alive in a high altitude environment with very low air pressure. We use the PocketLab’s Pressure/Altitude feature to show how an altimeter works. The sensitivity of the PocketLab is great – we can have a volunteer carry the PocketLab up a staircase near the demonstration stage and see a very visible change in altitude on the display.

We also demonstrate how an altimeter works at high altitude through ‘faking out’ the PocketLab by putting it in a vacuum chamber. As the pressure in the chamber drops, the pocketlab altimeter reading shoots up to over 10,000 meters in the air.

What could people expect to see if they check out the exhibit?

The Red Bull Stratos exhibition features the original capsule and pressure suit that were used in Felix Baumgartner’s record breaking parachute jump on October 14, 2012.  There is a tremendous amount of information about the research and technology that went into preparations for the jump as well as videos displaying highlights from the jump itself and interviews with the team that made it possible. You can read more information about the exhibition here (http://www.scienceworld.ca/stratos).  The exhibition will be at Science World until April 26, 2016, the final stop on its tour.

What’s exciting about having the exhibit?

For me, the most exciting thing about the exhibit is hearing the human stories of the people involved.  Beyond Felix himself, the team of engineers and scientists who built the equipment for the jump had to solve so many unique and unusual problems in such creative ways.   Some examples include:

  • The door of the capsule which was not hinged but rolled out of the way and was held closed by nothing but air pressure.
  • The G-Whiz , a device with a built in accelerometer would automatically trigger the drogue parachute to stop Felix from spinning if he experienced more than 3 G’s of acceleration in any one direction for more than 6 seconds
  • The balloon itself which was taller than the Statue of Liberty yet thinner than a dry cleaning bag.

Why was the jump so important?

As commercial space flight looks to become a reality it becomes more important to explore the effects of high altitude and high velocity on the human body to explore ways to bring space tourists home safely in the event of an accident. This jump provided information on how the human body reacts when traveling faster than the speed of sound.

What is your favorite part of the exhibit?

My favorite part of the exhibit is the capsule itself. Looking at that small step that Felix jumped from, so small that your foot will not even fit on it, the toes have to hang over the edge. I try to picture what it would have been like to look down on the earth from 39 km in the air.

Favorite facts

  • The date of the jump was quite accidentally exactly 65 years after Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier in a plane.
  • The length of Felix’s freefall (4 minutes 20 seconds) is longer than the length of Tom Petty’s song “Free Falling”

Are you using PocketLab for anything else? 

We have used it to measure the acceleration of a cocktail shaker when professional bartenders are mixing drinks.  For the future we hope to measure acceleration under platform holding a concrete block when we break it with a sledgehammer while lying on a bed of nails. We have also attempted to measure the speed and acceleration of chickens but have not found a good and humane way to attach the sensor to them.

Measuring magnetic field of washing machine motor using PocketLab

PocketLab user Martin Isaksson used his PocketLab to measure the magnetic field generated by the motor of a washing machine. Check out his results below. Pretty cool! 

Washing apparatus ready detection

Martin Isaksson


Using a PocketLab put on the top of a washing machine, we measure the magnetic field generated by the motor. The magnitude of this vector is used to detect if the motor is on, and when the motor has been off for some time, we say that the cycle is finished.



Read data

Read data from PocketLab CSV and calculate magnitude from x, y, and z components. Then use an Exponential Moving Average filter to remove the trend (seems like the sensor does not return to zero when the washing machine motor turns off).


Rearrange and plot x, y and z components.

Plot the magnitude

Plot the magnitude trend

Plot the adjusted magnitude (removed magnitude trend).

Plot the normalized absolute magnitude.

Using zero as a threshold, plot on or off status.

Use PocketLab to model relationship of friction/stress to frequency and size of Earthquake

This cool demonstration was brought to us via Twitter by Earth and Environmental Science Teacher, Ryan Hollister (follow him at @phanertic). 

Using PocketLab's 3-axis accelerometer, the PocketLab app's video function, and an Earthquake Machine (instruction on how to build one here, more resources here), Ryan provides his students with a unique way to visualize a difficult concept. 

His first PocketLab video simulates a high-friction/stress Earthquake model. Energy is stored, elastically, and then suddenly released as a large Earthquake. The high-friction/stress results in Earthquakes with lower frequency but greater magnitude.

His second video models a "slow-creep" of a continental plate along a fault-line, similar to sections of the San Andreas fault and the Cascadia subduction zone. The video simulates a low-friction/stress Earthquake model. Energy is released much more frequently but at lower magnitudes. Ryan points out that over time both models release the same energy, just in different ways. High friction equals fewer but larger Earthquakes whereas low friction equals frequent but smaller Earthquakes.

For some interesting articles on slow-creep Earthquakes check these out here and here. For a terrifying read if you're a resident of the Pacific Northwest, check out this New Yorker article from July 2015 (it even scared the White House to pay more attention to the Cascadia subduction zone). 

Reduced international shipping rates!

Starting January 1, 2016 we have found a new international carrier, Globegistics, that is able to dramatically reduce our shipping cost by almost 70%! We are passing that savings entirely on to our customers, and now if you order internationally, we are charging a flat rate of only $8US. 

Globegistics is able to give about the same delivery times for most countries, and the same reliable US Postal Service shipping and tracking.

Ordering your PocketLab internationally has never been more affordable!

Use PocketLab to Detect Santa Claus

Christmas Eve is only a few days away, and if you want a chance to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus, a PocketLab just might do the trick.

Here are three ways you can monitor Santa’s presence while pretending to sleep.

1) The Cookie Weight

It’s been rumored Santa goes Paleo in the summer to shed some pounds, but on Christmas Eve, he’s all about the chocolate chip cookie. When setting up your plate of cookies, add one small wrinkle: Place the plate on top of a small, sealed ziplock bag with a PocketLab inside. Note the barometric pressure reading inside the bag when the plate of cookies is on top of it. As soon as Santa grabs a cookie, the air pressure inside the bag should change. That’s your chance! Make a break for the tree and see if you can catch Santa snacking.


2) Pressure change in the chimney

Santa likes to make an entrance. If you have a chimney, that will be his go to method for breaking and entering. Tape your PocketLab to the inside of your chimney and monitor the air pressure. Santa will really need to squeeze into the top of your chimney from your roof, and that will create a large change in air pressure inside the chimney. If you hurry, you can catch Santa right as he lands in the fireplace.

3) Footsteps with Seismometer

Some say Santa can sneak around the tree so quietly because he was trained by Ninja’s. However, even Ninja’s are powerless before science. By creating a seismometer and placing it near your tree, you’ll be able to monitor even the smallest vibrations on your floor. Hang a heavy magnet as a pendulum over your PocketLab. The magnetic field graph will pick up the natural frequency of the pendulum. When the ground vibrates, either from an Earthquake or a footstep, you’ll be able to see a strong signal from the pendulum (for more details check out this instructibles). Once you pick up a Santa tip-toe, race to the tree to find him placing a bow on that new hoverboard you wanted.

Can PocketLab improve your athletic performance?

Check out how the NFL has been using RFID sensors to monitor every player’s movement in every NFL game this season. Two location beacons, made by Zebra Technologies, are placed on each shoulder pad of every NFL player. Data from those beacons is transmitted to 20 stationary receivers throughout each stadium. Using the data, the NFL can measure each player’s position, speed, acceleration, and distance covered, in real time.

From CIO.com:


With a foam football and a PocketLab you can measure the angular rotation of your spiral

The NFLplans to use the data generated to power the NFL 2015 app for Xbox One and Windows 10, allowing for things like “Next Gen Replay” that will allow fans to call up stats for each player tied into highlight clips posted on the app. But that’s just the beginning. The data will be fed to broadcasters, leveraged for in-stadium displays and provided to coaching staff and players.

“We’ve always had these traditional NFL stats,” says Matt Swensson, senior director of Emerging Products and Technology at the NFL. “The league has been very interested in trying to broaden that and bring new statistics to the fans. Along the way, there’s been more realization about how the data can be leveraged to make workflow more efficient around the game.”

You can see how the NFL has been using the data at their Next Gen Stats page. Check out this Anatomy of a Play breakdown of Buffalo Bills wide-receiver Sammy Watkins, burning Miami Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes for a 63-yard touchdown pass. The sensors on the shoulder pads, along with the 20 stationary sensors in the stadium mean data on Watkins’ top speed and separation from Grimes during the route can be collected.

Next time you’re out playing football, bring along your PocketLab and see what data you can collect. The NFL data gathering solution is very different than PocketLab’s (and much more expensive), but similar applications can be applied. Use the accelerometer and the gyroscope to capture your movement as you run around the field. Place PocketLab inside a foam football and measure the angular velocity of your best spiral. If you’re playing the other football, put one PocketLab on your cleat and the other in a foam soccer ball to optimize the spin on your corner kicks.

The best athletes in the world are using data to improve their game. With PocketLab, you can too.   

PocketLab Geography Lesson

Map Oct 2015

Who knew you could use a science lab like PocketLab to learn geography? Well, we have certainly been getting a major geography lesson from our customers. We have shipped PocketLab to more than 43 countries around the world, and we have to admit that we consulted a map more than once to know where some of them were. So far our list of countries shipped includes:








Czech Republic





Great Britain

Hong Kong












New Zealand





Republic of Korea




South Africa







United Arab Emirates

United States

We continue to be amazed and encouraged by the world wide interest in science and exploration! We are working to connect all of our world wide users into a global network of explorers – we encourage you to use tools like our Forum to connect with out PocketLab users, or if you rather post on Facebook or Twitter. We welcome your comments and interactions!!

PocketLab Improved My Life

A member of the PocketLab community posted to our forum last week, describing a clever way he used PocketLab’s magnetometer to help with a medical condition. We aren’t medical doctors, and PocketLab is not a medical device. This post is not endorsing PocketLab to be used to collect medically relevant data, however, we think this post speaks to the creativity of our users. It sure put a smile on our faces.

The following was from user @ibid, posted to our forum on August 19:

PocketLab Improved My Life

I had a cardiac device implanted about 5 years ago and was given an extensive list of appliances, tools, etc., to avoid due to possible interference, including triggering the built-in defibrillator. Unfortunately, one of the listed appliances was induction cooktops, which we had just installed as part of a kitchen renovation. For those not aware, induction cooktops use AC current to create an oscillating magnetic field that then interacts directly with the cooking vessel to heat it.

Example PocketLab Magnetic Field data, NOT @ibid’s data.

Example PocketLab Magnetic Field data, NOT @ibid’s data.

Long story short, I have not been able to go near the operating stove at all…I’ve conservatively stayed pretty far away to avoid the unpleasant consequences. PocketLab changed all that. With my wife moving the [PocketLab] toward the stove, I was able to very clearly see how far the magnetic field effects were projecting and determine a safe zone for myself. Now I can confidently approach the stove much more closely and even use it to some extent without fear of it interfering with my device.

It seems like a small thing, but it’s a big deal for me.
Thanks, [PocketLab]!

PocketLab is Ready to Ship!

Fulfillment update

After hours of USPS box folding, tiny-screw tightening, and quality assurance testing, we are happy to announce that our manufacturing and fulfillment is up to speed. We can’t thank our supporters enough.

If you pre-ordered a PocketLab through Kickstarter or through our own site, chances are you’ve already paired it to your device and explored with it.

If you pre-ordered and don’t have yours yet, it is most likely in transit. You should have received a tracking number from stamps.com if it shipped. If you haven’t heard anything from us or from stamps.com, make sure you filled out your Kickstarter survey (if you were a backer) so we have your mailing address and then send us a message at support@thepocketlab.com.

We want to hear from you!


How are you using your PocketLab? What are you attaching it to? What kind of acceleration can you get from your homemade catapult? Have you already made a cool PocketLab video? There are a number of ways to share with our community. Post PocketLab ideas and videos to Twitter using our handle @thepocketlab or #thepocketlab.  Post to Facebook and link it to our page, Facebook.com/thepocketlab, or post it to the forum under “Fun Activities and Use Cases.” 

It’s already been great to hear from so many enthusiastic users who are exploring with PocketLab in exciting new ways. The PocketLab community wants to hear more!

Calling all teachers…

We have 25 PocketLab experiments posted on our forum under“School Curriculum.” You can download a lesson, use it or modify it for you specific grade level or classroom, and share it back with the community to help other teachers.

We know the best classroom ideas and lessons for PocketLab will come from our teacher community. If you make your own teaching resource that takes advantage of the PocketLab we want you to share it with the community on our forum under “Share your Labs and Assignments.”

This is an exciting time for PocketLab. We owe everything to our supporters and community, so a huge thank you from the entire PocketLab Team.

PocketLab Manufacturing Update #4

Originally posted on Kickstarter:


After a couple weeks of long hours of coding and testing, we are moving ahead with manufacturing! We have ordered all of the PocketLab sensors to fulfill the Kickstarter orders, and we are waiting on parts to return from our manufacturing partners. If everything progress as expected, we will be fulfilling orders in mid-July. We will be sending out surveys soon to collect your shipping information, color choice, t-shirt size, or any option that was included with your reward tier. Kickstarter only allows us to send out one survey to all the backers, so we are making sure everything is in order before we send it out.

We greatly appreciate your messages of excitement and encouragement. We apologize for the delay, because the new hardware took extra time to test and verify functionality. The results are really cool though! For example, we changed the pressure sensor to a new component that enables much higher accuracy and faster data output. We encapsulated PocketLab in a Protective Sphere of Science (see picture) and then conducted some projectile motion experiments.red ball and sensor

Using the pressure sensor we can calculate the height of the ball. Then using the accelerometer, we can directly measure acceleration and also calculate speed. So after just 15 seconds of setup, you can conduct experiments to measure, position, speed, and acceleration vs. time (see the graphs below). We think the results really illustrate the derivative and integral relationships between position, speed, and acceleration. We can’t wait until everyone has the chance to try.

 projectile height

projectile speed

projectile acceleration

We will continue to update you with manufacturing progress and any other changes that occur. As always, please let us know any thoughts or questions you have.


Clifton and The PocketLab Team

A Big Thank You and What's Next

As our Kickstarter campaign comes to a successful close, the first thing we want to do is thank all the backers, friends, supporters, and explorers that have helped us make our campaign successful beyond our imagination! We have surpassed $100,000, and reached a level of funding – more than 5x our goal!

A big part of the success was getting the word out. Thank you to everyone who shared, linked to, tweeted and told your friends!  We could not have done it without you.  We were humbled by the depth and breadth of the press coverage we received.  The NY Times,Popular Science, Fictiv, TechCrunch, Texas Instruments, andGeekWire all wrote wonderful articles about The PocketLab and brought a diverse crowd of backers to our site from all corners of the internet.  We even landed on a BuzzFeed List!

The Kickstarter site is no longer taking backers, but, don’t worry – if you want to pre-order The PocketLab, we can take your order on our eCommerce site: www.thepocketlab.com.  Just click on the “pre-order” tab, or scroll to the bottom of the site.

We are still on track for an end of June delivery and for a limited time (until we are shipping production units) we will be honoring the Kickstarter price of $98.  Large order discounts and accessories are available on the site as well.  If you missed the Kickstarter, go to our site and pre-order yours now!

Of course we are always just an email, tweet, or phone call away.  To receive PocketLab updates, join our mailing list.

Sneak Peak at The PocketLab: Photos and Story from our recent Tech In Motion DEMO Night

We recently just finished an early preview of The PocketLab for theTech In Motion Product Design Demo at the Art Institute of California in Sunnyvale. Thanks to everyone who turned out and especially to the Tech In Motion team who made the event both enjoyable and extremely successful for us.
Almost 300 attendees crowded into the conference center in the Art Institute, and it was busy all night. Clif and Dorothy Lou held down the booth and were surrounded by interested techies from start to close.
Tech in Motion is a nation wide series of technology events that boasts 35,000 members who attend the weekly events across the US and internationally. We were honored to be part of this invitation-only event, and it was a great chance for us to meet with hundreds of tech enthusiasts who are part of the Tech In Motion community.
This was our first booth show, and helped prepare us for our first major teachers conference, the National Science Teachers Association conference which will be in Chicago on Thursday March 12-15.  (Come find us at Booth #378!)