Flipping the Classroom with Meteorite Impacts

April 21st, 2015

Our introductory courses don’t have labs, but that doesn’t stop our students from having hands-on experiences. Today, students in the Geology of Natural Hazards investigated the relationship between impact craters and projectile properties (size, mass, velocity) by experimenting with a tray of sand and a variety of projectiles. Students had a marble, ping pong ball, golf ball, and tennis ball that they could use to run experiments that would help them understand the factors that control the size and appearance of impact craters.

Students made craters by dropping the projectiles from a known height into the sand trays.

Students made craters by dropping the projectiles from a known height into the sand trays.

They repeated the experiment for a range of heights above the sand.

They repeated the experiment for a range of heights above the sand.

They measured the depth and diameter of each crater formed, and used their data to come up with the relationship between the size of the crater, the size and mass of the projectile, and the velocity.

They measured the depth and diameter of each crater formed, and used their data to come up with the relationship between the size of the crater, the size and mass of the projectile, and the velocity.

One group managed to conduct their experiments outside, although the brisk spring breeze introduced some error into their ping pong ball measurements!

One group managed to conduct their experiments outside, although the brisk spring breeze introduced some error into their ping pong ball measurements!

To prepare for today’s class, the students completed an online reading quiz. We reviewed questions from the reading quiz at the start of class, then covered the experiment setup. Students had the remaining period to work on their experiments. Some groups completed the assignment in class while others will need some more time to finish plotting their data. We’ll go over their results in our next class meeting.

2 Responses to “Flipping the Classroom with Meteorite Impacts”

  1. Mark Wilsonon 21 Apr 2015 at 8:49 pm

    Very cool! Maybe the students can try this sometime with one of our actual meteorites? Not so round, but certainly realistic!

  2. Andrew Retzleron 21 Apr 2015 at 10:27 pm

    Nice! I ran a similar activity with high school students for a women in geosciences Alamo impact outreach program. It worked well!

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