Hands-on Activity Peripheral Vision Lab

Quick Look

Grade Level: 12 (11-12)

Time Required: 30 minutes

Expendable Cost/Group: US $1.20

Group Size: 3

Activity Dependency:

Subject Areas: Computer Science

A photo shows a protractor on graph paper with equations and notes written on the paper.
Students explore their peripheral vision.
Copyright © 2004 Microsoft Corporation, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052-6399 USA. All rights reserved.


Students explore their peripheral vision by reading large letters on index cards. Then they repeat the experiment while looking through camera lenses, first a lens with a smaller focal length and then a lens with a larger focal length. Then they complete a worksheet and explain how the experiment helps them solve the challenge question introduced in lesson 1 of this unit.

Engineering Connection

Engineers often want to create robots that mimic human behavior. To create "seeing" robots, they must thoroughly understand how human vision works. This activity helps students understand human peripheral vision and how peripheral vision changes when a person looks through a lens. The Grand Challenge introduced in lesson 1 involves a "seeing" robot with two lenses at different focal lengths as its "eyes."

Learning Objectives

After this activity, students should be able to:

  • State the range of their peripheral vision.
  • State the range of their peripheral vision through camera lenses with different focal lengths.
  • Explain how this knowledge will help them work towards answering the Grand Challenge.

Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

  • Assess how similarities and differences among scientific, mathematical, engineering, and technological knowledge and skills contributed to the design of a product or system. (Grades 9 - 12) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

Suggest an alignment not listed above

Materials List

Each group needs:

Worksheets and Attachments

Visit [www.teachengineering.org/activities/view/van_robotic_vision_activity1] to print or download.

Pre-Req Knowledge

An understanding of the definitions of peripheral vision and focal length, such as presented in the associated lesson, The Grand Challenge: Simulating Human Vision.


In this activity, you will practice seeing with your peripheral vision. Then you will repeat the experiment, but this time while looking through a camera lens. You will repeat the experiment a third time, this time looking through a camera lens with a different focal length.

Your task is to find the range of your vision in all three cases, and draw a conclusion on how this knowledge will help you solve the Grand Challenge.


Before the Activity

  • Gather materials and make copies of the Peripheral VIsion Worksheet.
  • Write large letters on one side of 3 x 5 index cards. Make as many cards as groups of three in the classroom, all of different bold capital letters with the letters about as big as the card.

With the Students

Student 1 - Remains stationary at the protractor.

Student 2 - Moving at constant radius.

Student 3 - Measurer and recorder (on worksheet).

  1. Attach the rope to the "base" of the protractor (what would be the center of the circle if it was a full circle).
  2. Have Student 2 loosely tie the rope around his/her left ankle in a knot that can be easily undone. Hand that student a 3 x 5 index card with a letter written on it.
  3. Have Student 1 stand with his/her toes along the flat edge of the protractor and look straight ahead.
  4. Have Student 2 stand directly to the right of Student 1 with the rope pulled taut so that the protractor reads 180 degrees.
  5. Have Student 2 walk slowly toward the center of vision using the rope as a marker to ensure a constant radius around the person while holding the index card at eye-level with the letter facing Student 1.
  6. Have Student 1 indicate when they can first SEE the card out of the side of his/her eyes. Using the rope as an indicator, Student 3 measures and record sthe angle at which Student 1 can first SEE the card (reading the letter written on the card is not necessary for this step, just seeing the card is enough).
  7. Have Student 2 continue to walk slowly toward the center of vision at the same constant radius and hold the index card in the same manner. Student 1 continues to look only straight ahead.
  8. Have Student 1 indicate when s/he can first READ the card. Using the rope as an indicator, Student 3 measures and records the angle at which Student 1 can first READ the card.
  9. Repeat steps 2 – 5 on the opposite side of the student (with rope tied to opposite ankle).
  10. Now, have the student standing on the rope, look through the lens of a camera. Try a small focal length to begin with. Repeat steps 2-5.
  11. Change the focal length of the camera to a larger setting and have students repeat steps 2-5.
  12. Once students have finished this activity, have them draw conclusions on the similarities and differences in normal human vision and vision through a lens.


focal length: The distance between the surface of the mirror and the point to which light is focused.

lens (camera): A piece of transparent material used to focus rays of light.

peripheral vision: The outer part of the field of vision.


Activity Embedded Assessment

Worksheet: Make sure students fill in the worksheet chart with the collected data and complete all three parts of the experiment (no lens, then lenses with two different focal lengths).

Post-Activity Assessment

Worksheet: Review students' completed worksheets to gauge their comprehension. Make sure they have determined the total range of their peripheral vision in all three parts of the experiment. Ask students to explicitly describe the difference between human eyes and camera lenses (in terms of vision). Make sure they have written conclusions and explained how they will use the conclusion to solve the Grand Challenge.


Get the inside scoop on all things TeachEngineering such as new site features, curriculum updates, video releases, and more by signing up for our newsletter!
PS: We do not share personal information or emails with anyone.

More Curriculum Like This

High School Lesson
The Grand Challenge: Simulating Human Vision

Students are introduced to the Robotics Peripheral Vision Grand Challenge question. They are asked to write journal responses to the question and brainstorm what information they require in order to answer the question. Students draw a basis for the average peripheral vision of humans and then compa...

High School Unit
Robotics Peripheral Vision

This unit leads students through a study of human vision and computer programming simulation. Students apply their previous knowledge of arrays and looping structures to implement a new concept of linked lists and RGB decomposition in order to solve the unit's Grand Challenge: writing a program to s...

High School Activity
Panoptes and the Bionic Eye

In this activity, students learn about the visual system and then conduct a model experiment to map the visual field response of a Panoptes robot.


© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2010 Vanderbilt University


Mark Gonyea; Anna Goncharova; Rachelle Klinger

Supporting Program

VU Bioengineering RET Program, School of Engineering, Vanderbilt University


The contents of this digital library curriculum were developed under National Science Foundation RET grant nos. 0338092 and 0742871. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the NSF, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: September 7, 2017

Free K-12 standards-aligned STEM curriculum for educators everywhere.
Find more at TeachEngineering.org