Use an Engineer’s Tool


Learning Objective: To estimate distance on a map using an engineer’s ruler.

Engineers use special tools to create maps and diagrams of the technology they design. One such tool is the engineer’s ruler which enables them to scale down large 3D objects to 2D diagrams on a piece of paper.

Engineer’s rulers are distinct – they are often triangular with multiple sides consisting of different scales.  The side labeled 10 has inches each equally divided into 10 increments. In this scale, 1 inch represents 10 units. This can signify that 1 inch is equivalent to 10 feet, 10 miles, etc.

The 60 scale indicates 1 inch for every 60 units. The idea is the same for the other scales.

Let’s say that I have a map and I am trying to get to the bakery to buy a birthday cake.  I am on Caledonia Road and I need to get to Spadina Road.  Suppose in my hypothetical map the scale is that every inch is equal to 10 miles.  I can use the 10 scale of the engineer’s ruler on the map to determine how far I will need to travel to get to the bakery so that I know whether or not it is too long of a distance to walk.

Based on this scale, the bakery looks to be a little under 10 miles away as the distance is slightly under an inch. Therefore, I will plan to drive.

This activity can be more challenging by having learners use the other scales or create their own diagrams and maps using an engineering ruler during a lesson where they use engineering design principles.

What a nice, simple piece of technology.


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