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Did You Catch My Drift?

Aeronautics Logo

Subject Area: Physical Science

Grade Level: 8-10

National Science Standards:

  • Science as Inquiry:
    • Understandings about scientific inquiry.
    • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
  • Physical Science: Motions and forces.
  • Science and Technology:
    • Abilities of technological design.
    • Understandings about science and technology.

National Technology Standards:

  • Technology research tools: Use content-specific tools, software and simulations (e.g., environmental probes, graphing calculators, exploratory environments, Web tools) to support learning and research; select and use appropriate tools and technology resources to accomplish a variety of tasks and solve problems.
  • Problem-Solving and Decision-Making Tools - Routinely and efficiently use on-line information resources to meet needs for collaboration, research, publications, communications, and productivity.


Students will, through the use of the CurveBall interactive software package, become familiar with the way in which the flow of air across or around an object affects its ability to lift, spin, and curve. After reading the explanation given below, use CurveBall to become familiar with the concepts.

CurveBall is an interactive simulation software package that examines the aerodynamics of throwing a big league curve ball. As you change parameters such as speed, rotation on the ball, release point and angle, and atmospheric conditions, the software calculates the side force on the ball and the resulting trajectory. The package was created at the NASA Glenn Research Center.

CurveBall is a Java applet program that executes inside the browser of your computer. It is available on the World Wide Web at You can also download the program to run off-line.

Shown below is a screen shot from the program's controls and displays. You may change the values of the variables by using the slider or the input box on the left of the slider.

To use the slider:

  1. Click the mouse pointer on the arrows at the ends of the slider.
  2. Click the mouse pointer anywhere between the slider and the arrow.
  3. Drag the slider with the mouse.

To use the input box:

Simply select the value in the input box, key in the new value, and press Enter or Tab when finished. The button on the slider will move corresponding to the value typed in the box.

Image of CurveBall Interface

To begin the problem, click on Did You Catch My Drift? Activity.


Working alone or in pairs, write an explanation for the advice that the catcher gave to the pitcher. Give any mathematical and graphical evidence that supports your answer.


Each student or pair of students will be able to use CurveBall to demonstrate that the answer they gave in writing will accomplish the task needed (strike out the batter.)

Submitted by: Lorri Turner, Monticello Middle School, Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

Related Pages:
Lesson Index
Aerodynamics Index


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Editor: Tom Benson
NASA Official: Tom Benson
Last Updated: Thu, May 13 02:38:38 PM EDT 2021

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