Hands-on Activity: Wind Chimes

Contributed by: K-12 Outreach Office, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Quick Look

Grade Level: 9 (9-12)

Time Required: 2 hours 30 minutes

(can be split into three 50-minute sessions)

Expendable Cost/Group: US $10.00

Group Size: 4

Activity Dependency: None

Subject Areas: Science and Technology

A beautiful decorated wind chime.
Students design and build their own wind chimes
Copyright © Flickr https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3219/3290071591_a070af60bb_o.jpg


Students are challenged to design and build wind chimes using their knowledge of physics and sound waves, and under given constraints such as weight, cost and number of musical notes it must generate. They make mathematical computations to determine the pipe lengths.
This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Everyday, engineers design and create products, structures and systems, working within given constraints. In this "open-ended design," the potential exists for many creative solutions!

Learning Objectives

After this activity, students should be able to

  • Explain the relationships between wave velocity, wavelength and frequency.
  • Calculate the length of a pipe needed to provide a certain musical note.

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.

NGSS Performance Expectation

Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering. (Grades 9 - 12 )

Do you agree with this alignment?

This activity focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Design a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.

Alignment agreement:

Criteria may need to be broken down into simpler ones that can be approached systematically, and decisions about the priority of certain criteria over others (trade-offs) may be needed.

Alignment agreement:

View other curriculum aligned to this performance expectation
  • Develop and produce a product or system using a design process. (Grades 9 - 12 ) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Requirements involve the identification of the criteria and constraints of a product or system and the determination of how they affect the final design and development. (Grades 9 - 12 ) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • The design process includes defining a problem, brainstorming, researching and generating ideas, identifying criteria and specifying constraints, exploring possibilities, selecting an approach, developing a design proposal, making a model or prototype, testing and evaluating the design using specifications, refining the design, creating or making it, and communicating processes and results. (Grades 9 - 12 ) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Established design principles are used to evaluate existing designs, to collect data, and to guide the design process. (Grades 9 - 12 ) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Engineering design is influenced by personal characteristics, such as creativity, resourcefulness, and the ability to visualize and think abstractly. (Grades 9 - 12 ) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • A prototype is a working model used to test a design concept by making actual observations and necessary adjustments. (Grades 9 - 12 ) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Identify criteria and constraints and determine how these will affect the design process. (Grades 9 - 12 ) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Evaluate the design solution using conceptual, physical, and mathematical models at various intervals of the design process in order to check for proper design and to note areas where improvements are needed. (Grades 9 - 12 ) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Summarize, represent, and interpret data on a single count or measurement variable (Grades 9 - 12 ) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Recognize that electricity in circuits requires a complete loop through which an electrical current can pass, and that electricity can produce light, heat, and sound. (Grades 3 - 5 ) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Describe the measurable properties of waves (velocity, frequency, wavelength, amplitude, period) and explain the relationships among them. Recognize examples of simple harmonic motion. (Grades 9 - 12 ) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Distinguish between the two types of mechanical waves, transverse and longitudinal. (Grades 9 - 12 ) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Identify and explain the steps of the engineering design process: identify the problem, research the problem, develop possible solutions, select the best possible solution(s), construct prototypes and/or models, test and evaluate, communicate the solutions, and redesign. (Grades 9 - 12 ) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

Suggest an alignment not listed above

Materials List

  • fan
  • computers with internet connectivity (for research)
  • drill press or drill and sturdy clamp to clamp pipes
  • drill bits for each type of material students bring in (such as metal, wood, plastic)
  • pipe cutter
  • utility knives
  • scissors
  • (optional) scales
  • tape
  • stapler and staples

After researching the parts of a wind chime, bring in all materials necessary to build it. Try to find scrap material before purchasing anything.

Worksheets and Attachments

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

More Curriculum Like This

All about Linear Programming

Students learn about linear programming (also called linear optimization) to solve engineering design problems. They apply this information to solve two practice engineering design problems related to optimizing materials and cost by graphing inequalities, determining coordinates and equations from ...

High School Lesson
A Tale of Friction

High school students learn how engineers mathematically design roller coaster paths using the approach that a curved path can be approximated by a sequence of many short inclines. They apply basic calculus and the work-energy theorem for non-conservative forces to quantify the friction along a curve...

High School Lesson
To Heat or Not to Heat?

Students are introduced to various types of energy with a focus on thermal energy and types of heat transfer as they are challenged to design a better travel thermos that is cost efficient, aesthetically pleasing and meets the design objective of keeping liquids hot.

High School Activity
Show Me the Money

Students learn about the major factors that comprise the design and construction cost of a modern bridge. Students learn about the components that go into estimating the total cost, including expenses for site investigation, design, materials, equipment, labor and construction oversight, as well as ...

Middle School Lesson

Pre-Req Knowledge

An understanding of waves and the corresponding equations for solving wave problems. A basic understanding of the steps of the engineering design process.


You are just beginning your first job as an entry-level engineer at Wind Chimes, Inc. Your first task is to design a new and creative wind chime that meets the following criteria

  • It must be made using hollow piping.
  • It must play at least four different notes that sound pleasing together.
  • It must be aesthetically pleasing.
  • Material cost must be under $10.
  • It cannot weigh more than 1.5 kg.
  • It must make sound when suspended 1 meter away from a fan set at low.
  • All research, documentation, and mathematical calculations must be provided to your supervisor (teacher).


Before the Activity

  • Gather all materials.
  • Make copies of the Student Handout, which includes procedures.
  • Show students the fan being used so they can feel the wind produced by it on low at a distance of 1 meter.
  • Bring in a wind chime if you have one to demonstrate.
  • Suggestion: Have students conduct most of the research as a homework / out-of-class assignment.

With the Students

  1. Divide the class into teams of four students each.
  2. As necessary, review the steps of the engineering design process, which students will be following for this activity.
  3. Distribute the Student Handout and materials.
  4. Research the problem: a. What are the parts of a wind chime? b. How does the length and width of the pipe effect the sound? c. List at least 3 different sources and include website address or book title.
  5. Develop possible solutions: a. List possible materials b. Method of suspending pipes? c. Location for drilling pipes d. Make all required calculations for designing an effective wind chime.
  6. Test and evaluate: Does the wind chime operate continuously, giving out the expected notes under the test wind?
  7. Select a solution: Explain why you chose this solution and address all criteria listed in the introduction.
  8. Construct a prototype: Record all dimensions including pipe lengths and location of hole to suspend the pipes while constructing the prototype.
  9. Test the prototype: a. What is the quality of the sound? b. Does the sound quality need to be modified?
  10. Redesign to improve: List any changes you made to the prototype and note all changes in calculations for the new model


crest: Highest point on a wave.

frequency: The number of wave oscillations that occur in a unit of time.

longitudinal waves: Waves with vibrations parallel to the direction of the wave motion.

transverse waves : Waves with vibrations perpendicular to the direction of the wave motion.

trough: lowest point on a wave.

wave velocity: The time it takes for one point on a wave to travel a certain distance.

wavelength: The distance between two successive points on a wave (ex. crest to crest, trough to trough).


Use the Evaluation Rubric to grade student design projects on their functionality, aesthetic, calculations and drawings.

Safety Issues

Supervise students when drilling and cutting to ensure they follow safety procedures.


© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2005 Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Supporting Program

K-12 Outreach Office, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Last modified: August 23, 2018


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