Resource Type
Completion Time
About 1 period
High school and Up
Download, Share, and Remix
Mark Buesing
Related Members
Several magnets (more interesting plots are made with magnets of varying strength)
Shoe box (any box will work)
Graph paper (attached in Materials)
Earth Science
General Earth Science
Tools and Methods
Snow and Ice Science
Physical Science
General Physical Science
Motion and Forces


NASA's Operation IceBridge images Earth's polar ice in unprecedented detail to better understand processes that connect the Polar Regions with the global climate system. IceBridge uses a specialized fleet of aircraft and the most sophisticated suite of science instruments ever assembled to gather data on sea ice, glaciers, and ice sheets. The data gathered today will allow future scientists to better understand and model climate change. It is no exaggeration to say that teachers, those who work in support of teachers, and parents are literally raising the next generation of scientists for whom this data will be critical. More information about the project can be found here:

One of the instruments Operation IceBridge uses is a magnetometer which gathers data on the magnetic properties of the bedrock beneath the ice. Measuring the magnetic field strength helps scientists identify the type of rock present and knowing the type of rock helps scientists understand how the rock and ice interact.

The P-3 Orion aircraft is ideally suited for measuring magnetic fields as the Orion was originally designed as a submarine hunter and has a magnetic anomaly detector or MAD boom – sometimes called the "stinger". Once used to detect Soviet submarines, it’s now used to help determine what is under the ice.


  • Learn how to use data acquisition software and hardware (Hall effect magnetic field sensor, Verier LoggerPro, and Microsoft Excel)
  • Understand the nature of magnetic fields
  • Construct a surface plot and interpret the plot


Follow the procedure in the attached worksheet


Mark Buesing, PolarTREC Teacher 2013 Libertyville High School Libertyville, IL mark.buesing [at]

Tim Spuck (PolarTREC Teacher 2012) first came up with the idea of items in a box to simulate what Operation IceBridge's radar and lidar systems do. Tim's excellent activity can be found here:


9-12 Content Standard A: Science As Inquiry: Content Standard B: Physical Science: Content Standard F: Science In Personal and Social Perspectives: Content Standard E: Science and Technology: Content Standard G: History and Nature of Science: a. Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry b. Understandings about scientific inquiry d. Motions and forces a. Abilities of technological design f. Science and technology in local, national, and global challenges a. Science as a human endeavor

Standards Other

Next Generation Science Standards Subjects: Physics, Physical Science Grade Level: 9-12

NGSS: HS-PS3-5. Develop and use a model of two objects interacting through electric or magnetic fields to illustrate the forces between objects and the changes in energy of the objects due to the interaction.

HS-ESS3-5. Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems. 

Attachment Size
Full Lesson1.07 MB 1.07 MB
Lesson Materials543.54 KB 543.54 KB

This program is supported by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed by this program are those of the PIs and coordinating team, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.