Building Models: Drone Intercept and Desmos

I put together an activity using Desmos Activity Builder that was a variation on an older air traffic control task as part of my unit on parametric equations and vectors.

Here's some of the copy for the activity:

Students could only see six seconds of the drone animation before they disappeared from the screen. I had students detail their process of finding the intersection point and intersection time as part of the follow up for this activity.

My favorite product of this activity though came with the superposition of everyone's models on top of the drone footage. Here's that result (click to see the animation):

We had some really productive discussions as part of evaluating this result. The students noticed how most people had the correct initial location, but dramatically different results based on the velocity vectors used to generate the parametric expressions. Some students saw it as cheating to use Desmos to gather data, make calculations to create an approximate solution, and then tweak that solution. I shared that I saw that as a natural role of feedback in the modeling process.

The activity has one slide with some behind-the-scenes Activity Builder features, and I'm not sure I should release that at this point. If you are interested in using this activity with your students, let me know, and I can create a version without that slide.

2 thoughts on “Building Models: Drone Intercept and Desmos”

1. Evan,
I love how you have iterated this activity a few times to make it both more interesting and more approachable. It's a great reminder to any teacher of that there's always room for improvement, even in activities we think are already "good."

1. Thanks John. I suppose you could see my inability to leave well-enough alone as a flaw, but it's always fun to think about new ways to approach old ideas.