Traffic Technology - Physics and Computers

Contents of Tech Module

The Traffic Technology module covers the educational topics of basic linear motion, basic circuits and Boolean logic as taught in an intermediate school general science course or a high school physics/computer course. The understanding of these concepts is fundamental to the transportation topics of highway safety and design.

Teachers may select one activity from each concept area on the basis of grade/course level and equipment availability. Additional activities are available depending on time, interest, and equipment.

One Technology Module will supply hands-on experience for 1 group of 5 students.

  Estimated Classroom Time   Module Contents
Activity 1

no prep,
40 minutes class time,
30 minutes outside class


Logger Pro Software
CBL Lab Pro
Circuit Switch
Steel Bolt
TI Graph Link
Magnetic Wire
4D Cell Holder
Rubber Stopper
Lamp Base
D-Cell Batteries
Hot Wheels Track and Car
Magnetic Field Detector
Light Bulb
Alligator Clips  

* Graphic TI-83 Calculator is needed

Activity 2 30 minutes prep,
40 minutes class time,
30 minutes outside class
Activity 3 10 minutes prep,
40 minutes class time,
30 minutes outside class
Activity 4 90 minutes prep,
two 40-minute class periods,
2 hours outside class
Activity 5 60 minutes prep,
two 40-minute class periods,
90 minutes outside class

There are five activities within this module.

Activity 1, Calculating Reaction Time, is a brief one that has students roughly calculate their reaction time using linear motion equations for use in a later activity.

Activity 2, Calculating Braking Distance, involves the use of photogates to determine the deceleration and stopping distance of a braking vehicle.

Activity 3, Setting Yellow Light Period, uses data collected from the first two activities to calculate the timing sequence of a traffic light.

The next two activities explore the topics of intelligent traffic systems:

Activity 4, Traffic System Logic, uses spreadsheets to build a traffic light logic sequence.

Activity 5, Reactive Traffic Technology, is a project-type assignment, in which students look at the physics concepts used to design the mechanism to change a traffic light from red to green.

The activities have been designed to meet the National Science Education Standards and the Standards for Technology Literacy.