Height Site
Tips for Leaders

In this activity, members of your group will build inclinometers, devices that let them measure the height of a distant object. That object can be a flagpole, a building, a tree—or a rocket!

Making inclinometers and learning how to use them prepares your group for making rockets (Bottle Blast-Off!) and measuring how high they fly. It can be tough to get a group of young people excited about measurements, angles, and math. On the other hand, it’s easy to get them interested in launching rockets and flying kites.

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere (that is, anywhere north of the equator), people can also use their inclinometers to figure out where on Earth they are by measuring the height of the North Star. Planning chart

Preparation and Materials

To measure the height of something tall, people will need to measure the distance from where they are standing to the object they are measuring.

So you’ll need another way to measure distance. You could use a measuring tape, or measure the distance with string, then measure the string with a meter stick.

For each member of your group to make an inclinometer, you will need:
Copies of Protractor for Inclinometer
Scissors (at least one pair for each group of three)
Clear Tape
A 3" x 5" card
A hole punch
50 cm of string
A washer or other small weight with a hole in it
A sheet of 8 1/2 " x 11" paper (you can use paper from the recycling bin)
A pen or pencil
Rulers (at least one for each group of three)

If you have time, we suggest that you make an inclinometer before introducing this activity to your group. Putting together the inclinometer will only take you a few minutes. It’s useful to have a completed inclinometer on hand to show your group.


Quick Links:

Making Your Inclinometer
Using Your Inclinometer

Height Calculator Grid
Measuring Your Latitude
Teacher/Leader version
Tips for leaders: Making and Using Inclinometer

  Print Outs:


We'd like your feedback on Math Explorer activities.

Math Explorer Home


© Exploratorium