Coriolis Force

Sample Lesson Plan


To allow students to visualize what the coriolis force is, to examine footage of a Coriolis model, and to have them discuss what they are observing in their own words.

Materials Needed:

Enough computers for students to use, in groups or alone.
Measurement in Motion, or CamMotion
An Annotation Tool


The Coriolis force is a fictitious, non-existant force which is used to explain why winds on Earth appear to be deflected to us, as observers on this rotating planet. This is a very difficult concept to grasp and, especially, to visualize. By using digital video you can help students observe a model of the phenomena and then experiment with it to gain a better understanding. Check out these pages for more information on the Coriolis force and its relationship to us on Earth, and then go on to Questions and Activities to see how to use digital video and the Motion tools to have students learn about the Coriolis Force.

The original site of the merry-go-round example.

A decent explanation of the Coriolis force, with mathematical equations.

Dan's Wild Wild Weather Page.

Questions and Activities:

The beginning of the movie says that an observer above the merry-go-round would see the path of the ball as straight. Using CamMotion or Measurement in Motion a student can verify this phenomenon by tagging the position of the ball and viewing the graph created by the balls motion.

Cam Motion Example

Measurement in Motion Example

1) Using one of the motion tools to determine whether or not the ball travels in a straight line when observed by someone above the merry-go-round.

2) Why does the ball appear to curve to someone sitting on the merry-go-round?

3) How does this relate to the Coriolis force?


These sorts of tools can be used very easily to track motion in a movie. Students can observe phenomenon such as velocity and acceleration, parabolic motion, or other path tracing.

After students import a movie and trace the motion of objects you could ask a range of questions that would a) test the students understanding of the material or b) ask them to further the investigation.

Examine the corollary site, Motion in Sports.