Mechanical Pedometers

This week we began work on designing our own Micro:bit pedometers.

We first looked at a similar, existing product – a mechanical pedometer, and we played the roles of customer & engineer to decompose the pedometer and to work out what could go wrong and how the engineer could address this.

We took apart 2 pedometers and researched how they worked:

“Mechanical pedometers

Early pedometers were entirely mechanical and they worked a bit like pendulum clocks (the ones with a swinging bar powered by a slowly falling weight). As the pendulum rocks back and forth, a kind of see-saw lever called an escapement flicks up and down and a gear wheel inside the clock (which counts seconds) advances by one position. So a pendulum clock is really a mechanism that counts seconds. The original pedometers used a swinging pendulum to count steps and displayed the count with a pointer moving round a dial (a bit like an analog watch). You fixed them on your waist and, every time you took a step, the pendulum swung to one side then back again, causing a gear to advance one position and moving the hand around the dial.”


This helped us to explore the concept of a pedometer, how we could make one that counts steps as accurately as possible and the best design. We talked about 2 other types of pedometers – Fitbits & Smartphones.

We discussed the sensors that a Micro:bit includes and how they work, and compared these to the sensors in a phone. This will help us to design our Micro:bit pedometer.

A few children kept their pedometers on until next week and have been amazed at:

  • How easy it is to clock up lots of steps
  • How accurately this old-fashioned pedometer measures steps (been comparing to their fitbits)

Did anything surprise you today?

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About nic schofield

I’m a primary schools computing technician, interested in teaching children, their teachers & their parents, about IoT, computational thinking and implications of technology on their lives and encouraging children to think critically about technology to influence change in the world.

8 thoughts on “Mechanical Pedometers

  1. I thought about the metal piece being to loose(sensitive) and maybe we could tighten it for running because for running you do heavy steps.


  2. When I lean down I sometimes accidentally reset it. To solve it I think we need to make the arm stiffer.


    • Very good point, Katie – can we solve it in our own device?


  3. I was surprised at code club by the amount of sensors they can fit on the small micro bit. How do they fit so many on it?


  4. How would pedometers work if it was ten times bigger or ten times smaller and if I were to compare it to a Fitbit witch one would be better and more useful in a daily use,is thier any ofther use of one?

    I guess a Fitbit is more useful,I can’t wait for next week code club to find out.


  5. I think tat a pedometers should not so sensitive because in code club I could bang it on my hand and it would go up by one or use a gps so it can see your travel progress and can’t cheat is so easyly


  6. I think the reset button should be a switch instead of a button because my one has reset 4 times in a day without me pressing it.

    Also, when I was in class it adds steps when I tuck in my chair.


  7. Marce & I also thought about how a metre roller is similar to a pedometer. We thought this because every metre the roller clicks counting another metre and with every shake the pedometer counts another step. We then also thought about a car counting miles and how that might resemble a more complicated and bigger scale pedometer.


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