IEEE REACH: STEM Early Maritime Navigation Lesson Module

ION proudly co-sponsored the development of the following STEM educational materials for the IEEE REACH program. IEEE REACH provides teachers and students with educational resources that explore the relationship between technology and engineering history and the complex relationships they have with society, politics, economics and culture.

Early Maritime Navigation

The open sea is a never-ending desert of water – the same in all directions.  How did ancient mariners cross the ocean without GPS?  The principles behind “modern” innovations used by our GPS-enabled devices are surprisingly similar to those used by technologies that guided seafarers hundreds of years ago.  Whether by the stars, the astrolabe, or the kamal, sailors learned to navigate the seas using triangulation.  This Inquiry Unit focuses on the technologies of navigation, beginning with the compass and ending with GPS.  Students will analyze primary and secondary source documents and engage in hands-on Formative Performance Tasks as they explore the connections between navigational technology and the preeminence of seafaring powers in early modern times.

Video Lesson Aids

  1. Power of the Sea

  2. Lost At Sea

  3. The Compass

  4. Latitude

  5. Longitude

  6. GPS

For more information 

Visit the IEEE Reach program website at for other lesson topics.