Science project

How High Is That?

Difficulty Level




Project Time Frame

2-4 weeks


This project explores ways to measure the heights of objects located out of reach.

Project Goals
  • To illustrate the different ways in which extreme height can be measured.
  • To develop new and improved ways to measure extreme height.

Materials and Equipment

  • Computer with internet access.
  • Calculator
  • Tape measure
  • Yardstick
  • Kite
  • Clinometer (optional)
  • Digital camera
  • Typical office/craft supplies (such as paper, pens & poster-board)


Height is a measure of vertical distance, vertical meaning perpendicular to the surface of the earth.  We’ve all “read somewhere” that a particular tree is of a certain height, or that the moon is a certain distance from here, and vaguely wondered how someone would know that.

We imagine all sorts of improbable scenarios - armies of construction workers hoisting the world’s longest ruler to a distant world - A bespectacled mathematician buzzing around treetops in a helicopter, furiously scribbling notes on a pad, an infinitely long tape-measure dangling from his pocket protector.

However, there are several inventive ways to measure the heights of things beyond our reach, and perhaps even better ways have yet to be discovered.

Research Questions
  • What are the various known methods for measuring things out of reach?
  • How can these methods be improved upon?
Terms and Concepts to Start Background Research
  • Clinometer (a.k.a. Inclinometer)
  • Pythagorean Theorem
  • Height/Elevation/Altitude (know the difference)

Experimental Procedure

  1. Read overviews of relevant topics (see bibliography).
  2. Measure and record the heights of various towering objects, using standard methods.
  3. In cases where the height is already known, compare your results with known results.
  4. Experiment with new ways to measure height.
  5. Compare new methods with known methods.
  6. Carefully record all results.
  7. Analyze the data.
  8. Interpret findings in a detailed report.
  9. Show results visually using charts and graphs.
  10. Display any interesting photos taken throughout the course of the experiment.


Wikipedia articles:  “Clinometer” and “Pythagorean TheoremWikiHow To Measure the Height of a Tree

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