How Fast Are You Moving?

Paul Cutlip St Petersburg College.
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In this exercise students learn about the concept of rotational velocity then use Microsoft Excel and Google Earth to handle and display data.

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Learning Goals

to develop skills in data analysis and display using a spreadsheet, learn how to deal with and present numerical data. This exercise should also help to develop critical thinking skills.

Context for Use

This is a very adaptable exercise, it could be part of a lab on the solar system. It is also suitable as a homework exercise. It can be scaled up or down and adapted to a variety or levels and situations. As written here it's suitable as a homework assignment for an entry college level class

Description and Teaching Materials

The students learn how to calculate rotational velocity then write a spread sheet to do this calculation for any moon or planet at any latitude. Based on this the students are asked a series of questions that encourage them to extrapolate from their data and think critically about a couple different issues.
Computer with a spreadsheet program
Internet access
Google Earth
Exercise How Fast Are You Moving Handout. (Acrobat (PDF) 154kB Jun15 10)

Teaching Notes and Tips

  1. Not all my students have had trigonometry so sometimes I have to have them just "black box" the cosine part of the equation. You could adapt the exercise by calculating the distance for them.
  2. I mention this in the exercise but they do need to make sure to convert degrees to radians before applying the cosine or it will not work.


I usually base my assessment on:
  1. The the quality and clarity of the spreadsheet they present.
  2. The quality of the answers to the critical thinking questions.

References and Resources