Last week was British Science Week and like every year my wife and I both volunteer to run an activity at the local Primary school. The theme this year was ‘Exploration & Discovery’ and I thought it would be fun to introduce Year 4 children (ages 8-9) to the basic principles of GPS. The focus was on trilateration, i.e. draw three circles, see where they intersect.
The activity itself was quite simple: “A few explorers have found themselves lost somewhere around the UK. Their GPS devices are malfunctioning and do not report their exact position. They only show their distance from a few satellites. Can you use trilateration to help locate them?”.
Preparing the material for the activity seemed quite simple at first, just print off a map, mark the location of the satellites, pick the location of the explorers and measure some distances. In practice though, there were some complications.