Home Page of Peggy E. Schweiger

Dinosaur Tracks

This activity is modified from one created by Brian Abeling , graduate student in the CTER program at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign . July 1999. His original inquiry activity can be found at http://lrs.ed.uiuc.edu/Students/abeling/407/index.html

This inquiry activity was designed for use as a kinematics lab for my AP Physics class. I used the track patterns provided in the activity developed by Brian Abeling to draw my sample trackway. Students were challenged to determine the speed of the dinosaur using Alexander's formula (see below). In a teacher-led discussion, students determined what data they needed to collect from the trackway and how they would analyze it. Students were encouraged to develop a model to determine a relationship between foot length and leg length.

dinosaur image Objectives 

  1. Collect data to determine how fast the dinosaur who made the tracks was moving.
  2. Collect data using your lab group members as a model to determine a relationship between foot length and leg length.
  3. Compare the speed of the dinosaur to living animals today.
dinosaur image Materials
  1. Meter stick
  2. Stop watch
  3. Dinosaur trackway sample

dinosaur image Equation
You will be using the following equation developed by Alexander. Additional information about this mathematical analysis can be found at http://www.shef.ac.uk/~es/DINOC01/dinocal1.html.

speed (m/s) = 0.25 * (stride length) 1.67 * (leg length)-1/17* (9.8)0.5

dinosaur imageProcedure

  1. Determine the stride length (average distance from one dinosaur print to a matching print).
  2. For each member of your lab group, measure foot length, leg length, and total height.
  3. Determine the average walking stride length for a selected group member.
  4. Determine the average running stride length for a selected group member.
  5. Determine the average walking speed for a selected group member.
  6. Determine the average running speed for a selected group member.

dinosaur image Questions

  1. Was the dinosaur walking or running? Support your answer.
  2. How fast was it walking or running?
  3. Could you outrun it?
  4. How does its speed compare to other animals alive today?