FOSS Next Generation Sound Design

Grade STEM

Sound is mechanical energy. The branch of physics that is concerned with sound energy is acoustics. Sound energy can be generated, it can move from one place to another, it can do work, and it dissipates over time and distance. We can investigate sound sources to find how energy is transferred to them, to cause vibrations, how the vibrations that result produce sound, and how those vibrations are detected by sound receivers.

Investigation 1

Students engage sound as a phenomenon. They investigate sound by using sound generators and instruments in miniactivities to find out what causes sound and what changes pitch—the length of the vibrating object. Students are introduced to ways to represent sound waves and ways to display graphically the properties of pitch (frequency of vibrations) and volume (intensity of energy transfer). Students listen outdoors to identify natural and human-made sounds and discuss the information that sounds convey.

Investigation 2

Students continue to explore ways to vary pitch of sounds made by vibrating strings, not by length but by tension. Students work in collaborative groups on miniactivities that introduce a sound source and a medium of sound travel. They observe and compare how sound travels through solids, liquids (water), and gas (air). Students use media to explore the human sound receiver—the ear—and to explore how animals use sound. They discover that not all animals produce and sense the same frequencies of sound.

Investigation 3

Students investigate four musical instruments to find out how to transfer energy to produce vibrations, how to control the vibrations to produce tones of different pitches, and how to play each device as a musical instrument. Through media, students are introduced to a band that makes instruments from recycled materials. The final challenge is to design and build a musical instrument that produces at least three pitches using available materials. Students apply the engineering design process in this investigation.

Investigate for yourself.