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Calandrino - Lovell - Vicencio 1

Let’s Have Math Class Outside


Our team for this “Math Class Outside” activity consisted of Ian Calandrino, Gabe

Vicencio, and Nick Lovell. This assignment was comprised of four different tasks all

utilizing a tool called a transom in some shape or form. This transom helped measure

angles related to the north (bearings) which were then used to calculate dimensions of

various items around the Butcher property. The first problem was to test the group ’s

knowledge of bearings and to get comfortable with how the transom worked. This

problem consisted of measuring three vectors, which are lines with magnitude

and direction, and in theory, should have landed in the starting point. The second

problem was to measure the height of a flagpole on the property using angles and

measuring distances, which proved to be a small issue explained later in this writeup.

The third problem was to find the direct distance between a no parking sign and a fire

hydrant across the street without crossing the street and by only measuring angles and

distances with the transom, which was slightly challenging. The final question was to

create a regular hexagon with side length 10 and to measure the diagonals across the

shape created using the transom and a measuring tape. In the end, all of our answers

were compared to the given values and discussed to compare the accuracy of our work.

Problem 1:

The first problem was to practice using the transom and to get used to using the

transom as a measuring device. The transom was first set at point A, shown in Figure 1.

The compass on the transom was aimed so that the 0° marker was pointing due north,

then a 40° angle was found using this transom and a distance of 25 feet was measured

from point A on the 40° angle measured. This point, shown as point B in Figure 1 below
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was then marked. The transom was then moved to this point and an angle of 160° from

the north was measured, then a vector of 25 feet was measured to get point C shown in

the figure below. The next vector was found by again placing the transom at this point

and finding an angle of 280° from the north and measuring 25 feet from this point. The

resulting point, which is labeled as point D in the figure, is almost exactly the same as

the starting point we chose. As a group, we hypothesized that the vectors should have

brought us back to the same place we started. To test this theory, components were

used to find the resultant vector, which would show how far off the final point was from

the starting point. The resultant was found using the computations shown in Table 1

below. This resultant was1.0440 × 10−12 , which means the ending point is1.0440 ×

10−12 feet off of the starting point.

Figure 1. Problem One Modeled

Figure 1 shows how this problem was solved and modeled on the Butcher

property. This image shows how the bearings were used to create the next vector in a

tip to tail format. The magnitude of each vector was 25, so it created an equilateral


Table 1. Computations for Problem One

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Component Method Horizontal Vertical

Point A 25𝑐𝑜𝑠(40°) 25𝑠𝑖𝑛(40°)

Point B 25𝑐𝑜𝑠(160°) 25𝑠𝑖𝑛(160°)

Point C 25𝑐𝑜𝑠(280°) 25𝑠𝑖𝑛(280°)

Sum 3.0 × 10−13 1.0 × 10−12

Resultant (3.0 𝑥 10−13 )2 + 1.0440 × 10−12

(1.0 𝑥 10−12 )2=√𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑢𝑙𝑡𝑎𝑛𝑡

Table 1 shows how the resultant from problem 1 was found. The group used the

component method to find the final resultant. This number was found to be 1.0440 ×

10−12 feet, which is a very small distance, so the ending point of the vectors is about the

starting place. Out hypothesis turned to be correct because the starting position is

1.0440 × 10−12 feet off from the final point, which is insignificant because it is such a

small distance.

Problem 2:

The objective of the second problem was to find the height of the flag pole

located on Butcher’s campus. This problem was solved using the transom in a different

way. The top part with the paper protractor and straw were used in the same way that a

sextant is used. First, it was rotated 90° and was used to approximate the angle from a

point 23.4 feet away. This angle was found to be about 55°. The horizontal on the

transom was then set at 0° and the observer looked down the straw until the top of the

flagpole was visible, then the angle was recorded off of the transom. The distance was

measured using the measuring tape provided, and the flagpole was assumed to be

perpendicular to the ground. These measurements were then used to create a right
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triangle that can be used to find the height of the flagpole. This is shown in Figure 2

below, which shows the angles and distances found. The law of sines was then used to

find the estimated height of the flagpole as shown the computations found in Figure 3


Figure 2. Problem Two Modeled

Figure 2 shows how the distances and angles were modeled by the group in

order to find the height of the flagpole. Angle A was found by using the transom as a

sextant, and the distance was found using the measuring tape. The height of the

flagpole was found to be about 33.4187 feet tall.

180° − (55° + 90°) = 35°

𝑠𝑖𝑛(35°) 𝑠𝑖𝑛(55°)
23.4 𝑥
𝑥 = 33.4187 𝑓𝑒𝑒𝑡
Figure 3. Computations for Problem Two

Figure 3 shows how the law of sines was used to find the height of the flagpole in

problem two. The height was found to be 33.4187 feet tall. The exact answer for

problem two is 35 feet, and the answer found by the group was 33.4187 feet. The

group’s answer is 1.5813 feet off of the actual answer. This result could be due to the
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improper measurement of the angle the flagpole makes with the ground, or the angle

measured by the transom, as well as any additional human error.

Problem 3:

The third problem’s objective was to find the horizontal distance from a sign of

the east side of Cosgrove Street to a red fire hydrant found of the west side of Cosgrove

Street. To solve this problem the group first used the transom, placed approximately

where the sign is located, to measure the angle to the west of north, which was about

60°. Then, the distance from the sign to about where the fire hydrant was located across

the street was measured using the measuring tape. This length was found to be 27.3

feet from the sign. The length created a 90° angle with the fire hydrant across the street

which is shown in Figure 4 pictured below. A right triangle was formed, which could be

used to approximate the diagonal length from the sign to the fire hydrant. The law of

sines was used to find this diagonal length. The computations performed by the group

are pictured below in Figure 5.

Figure 4. Problem Three Modeled

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Figure 4 shows how problem 3 was modeled in order to find the distance from

the sign shown at point A to the fire hydrant shown as point B. The angles were found

using the transom. The distance from point A to point C was found using the measuring

tape. The diagonal distance was found to be 54.6 feet across.

180° − (60° + 90°) = 30°

𝑠𝑖𝑛(30°) 𝑠𝑖𝑛(90°)
27.3 𝑥
𝑥 = 54.6
Figure 5. Computations for Problem Three

Figure 5 shows the computations for problem three that were used to find the

diagonal distance from the sign to the fire hydrant. The group found this distance to be

54.6 feet across. The exact answer for this problem was 48 feet and 5 inches from the

fire hydrant to the sign. The observed difference was about 6 feet and 2.2 inches. This

could be due to not correctly measuring the angle from the sign to the fire hydrant, or

improperly assuming a 90° angle was made from the distance of 27.3 feet to the fire


Problem 4:

This final challenge was to create a regular hexagon with side length of 10 feet

using the transom and the measuring tape. The group performed this task by first

starting at a point in the grass, marking it with a twig, and setting the transom to that it

was facing due north. The angle was found for each side by dividing the total angle

total, 360°, by 6 which gave an interior angle of 60° for each side. This process is shown

in more detail in Figure 6 below. Then, a 60° angle from the north was measured and a

length of 10 feet was measured. To mark this point a twig was stuck into the ground.

The transom was then lined up according to the 60° from the second point. With this, an
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angle of 120° from the north was created for the next point. This point was then also

marked with a twig. The process continued until the transom ended back up at the first

point which was marked with a twig. A polygon with 6 (mostly) equal sides, or a regular

hexagon, was formed. This hexagon is displayed in Figure 7 located below. The total

diagonal length for all three diagonals was found by measuring from one twig to the twig

directly across the hexagon. This resulted in the group getting diagonals of 20.1 feet

from point A to point D, 20.1 feet from point B to point E, and 21.1 feet from point C to

point F. These diagonals are also visualized in Figure 7.

= 60°
Figure 6. Computations for Problem 4

Figure 6 shows the computations that were used in problem four. The simple

calculation was used to find the interior angles of a normal hexagon. These angles were

used to create the most accurate normal hexagon by using the transom to recreate

these angles in real life.

Figure 7. Problem 4 Modeled

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Problem four was visualized in order to find the diagonals lengths across the

regular hexagon. This hexagon was found by using the transom to find an angle 60°

from the side lengths. Each side length was 10, and the diagonals were found to be

20.1 feet, 20.1 feet, and 21.1 feet. When compared to the actual diagonal length, a

normal hexagon with a side length of 10 feet has diagonals of 20 feet. Our group

determined that two of the diagonals were 20.1 feet, which is only 0.1 feet off of the

exact answer. The other diagonal from point C to point E was found to be 21.1 feet

which are 1.1 feet off from the actual answer. The discrepancies could be due to quite a

short time crunch as out hexagon was completed in the last 5 minutes of class.


In conclusion, we believe that the accuracy of the experiment was compromised

by both time and the accuracy of our devices. The transom, for example, was simply a

straw and a print-out compass attached to some wooden pieces. In our case, the

transom was in slight disrepair and could have caused some fluctuations in the angles

observed from our measurements. In addition, the flagpole problem was limited in the

methods that could be used to solve it. One of the more accurate methods, which would

be using the sun’s shadow to estimate missing angles, could not have been used

because the sun was not out when we conducted this activity. Instead, we relied on the

transom, which is not a precise instrument. As a group, we all found it interesting how

bearings and magnitudes and directions could be utilized in the real world. We worked

well together in the group and our processes for getting work done, although

occasionally off-task, proved to allow us to work in tandem and finish on time in the end.

The questions asked made the idea of bearings a lot easier to see how they work in a
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hands-on environment. We found it difficult to find the answer to the flagpole problem

because we had to result to using an alternative method, as the sun was not out. The

fire hydrant also proved to be a small issue as we were not permitted to cross the street.

Once we were given the distances, however, the problems became easier to

understand and solve. Our group learned a lot about how bearings work in the real

world and also showed how bearings and magnitudes can be applied to real-life

situations. Nothing was out of the ordinary, besides the finding the solution to the

flagpole challenge. We had to turn it and measure the angle vertically and not

horizontally, which we didn’t expect. Overall, it was a good activity to help us

understand how vectors work in the real world rather than on paper in imaginary

scenarios in 2 dimensions. This is a good project for others in the future who need help

understanding vectors and we definitely recommend it for not only future MMSTC

students but really any student trying to expand their knowledge of vectors.