Through investigating the nature, sources and level of noise produced in their environment, students are introduced to the concept of noise pollution. They learn about the undesirable and disturbing effects of noise and the resulting consequences on people's health, as well as on the health of the environment. They use a sound level meter that consists of a sound sensor attached to the LEGO® NXT Intelligent Brick to record the noise level emitted by various sources. They are introduced to engineering concepts such as sensors, decibel (dB) measurements, and sound pressure used to measure the noise level. Students are introduced to impairments resulting from noise exposure such as speech interference, hearing loss, sleep disruption and reduced productivity. They identify potential noise pollution sources, and based on recorded data, they classify these sources into levels of annoyance. Students also explore the technologies designed by engineers to protect against the harmful effects of noise pollution.
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- Common Core State Standards for Mathematics: Math
- International Technology and Engineering Educators Association: Technology
- Standard 5. Students will develop an understanding of the effects of technology on the environment. (Grades 0 - 12)  ...show
- Standard 3. Students will develop an understanding of the relationships among technologies and the connections between technology and other fields of study. (Grades 0 - 12)  ...show
- National Science Education Standards: Science
- Content Standard E: As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop Abilities of technological design Understandings about science and technology (Grades 5 - 8)  ...show
- New York: Math
- Students will collect, organize, display, and analyze data. (Grades -1 - 7)  ...show
- Students will use units to give meaning to measurements. (Grades 1 - 5)  ...show
- Students will develop strategies for estimating measurements. (Grades 1 - 7)  ...show
- Students will make predictions that are based upon data analysis. (Grades 1 - 7)  ...show
- Explain noise pollution and how engineers measure it.
- Describe and list examples of impairments resulting from noise pollution.
- Describe and list solutions proposed by engineers to protect against unwanted noise.
- Construct a noise level meter to record noise pollution in the classroom.
- Plot and analyze data.
- graph paper
- LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT robot and software, such as the LEGO MINDSTORMS Education NXT Base Set and Software Pack (5003404) available for $376 at https://shop.education.lego.com/legoed/education/NXT/NXT+Base+Set+and+Software+Pk/5003404&isSimpleSearch=false (specifically the brick, sound and touch sensors will be used)
- computer, loaded with NXT 2.1 software
- Measuring Noise Pollution Pre-Activity Survey, one per student
- Measuring Noise Pollution Worksheet, one per student
- computer and USB cable
|decibel (dB):||The SI (International System of Units) unit of measure of sound intensity.|
|environment:||The air, water and land in or on which people, animals and plants live.|
|hertz (Hz):||The SI unit of measure of frequency.|
|impairment:||Physical or mental damage.|
|mean:||Statistical unit computed as the sum of all measures divided by the number of records. Also known as the average.|
|noise:||A sound of any kind.|
|noise pollution:||Annoying or harmful noise.|
|pollution:||An undesirable state of the environment.|
|sample:||A small number of measures.|
|sensor:||A device converting a physical factor into an electrical signal.|
|sound level meter:||A device used to measure the noise intensity.|
|source:||A point of origin or procurement.|
Before the Activity
- Gather materials and make copies of the Measuring Noise Pollution Pre-Activity Survey and Measuring Noise Pollution Worksheet.
- Set the system in place by making sure all the components are connected to the appropriate ports (touch sensor to port 1, sound sensor to port 3) of the LEGO NXT Intelligent Brick.
- Check to make sure the battery level is good.
- Calibrate the sound sensor: In a silent room with the air conditioner or heater turned off, classroom lights turned off (if they make any noise when on), and all windows and doors closed, follow the following three steps:
- Run the program noiseMeter.rbt.
- Press the button attached to the touch sensor to start recording data.
- The screen must display less than 4.5 dB.
With the Students: Measuring Sound Level
- Administer the pre-activity survey.
- Present to students the Introduction/Motivation material.
- Hand out the worksheets.
- Divide the class into groups of three students each.
- Give the groups all the necessary materials and have them repeat steps 2 and 3 of the "Before the Activity" steps.
- Open the noiseMeter.rbt program on your computer (if for any reason the sensor ports are changed, please do so in the program).
- Connect the USB cable and upload the program onto the LEGO NXT Intelligent Brick.
- Run the program on the LEGO brick by selecting the correct program and pressing the orange button twice.
- Start recording the sound by pressing the touch button.
- Note that while the program executes, the amplitude of the measured sound is instantaneously displayed and also saved to a file.
- When the program ends, students connect the brick to the computer, open the file where the data is saved and record it in their worksheet tables.
- Students compare their results with the average standards on the same type of noise.
- If a difference of more than 5 dB is observed when comparing the results from the activity with the average standards, then repeat the experiment one more time. If the difference is small (less than 5 dB), mention some factors such as context, environment and accuracy of the measurement instrument that might explain the difference. In fact, professional measurement instruments are very expensive and operated by well-trained engineers and technicians. Thus, some error is anticipated in this activity due to using less precise measuring devices in an environment that is more difficult to control with students learning to use the instruments.
- Student plot their data as a bar chart using graph paper and an appropriate scale.
- Students analyze the data based on the plot and answer the worksheet questions. Through a class discussion, have students draw conclusions about dangerous sources of noise pollution. Based on what noise level values they measured in the activity, students should list sources they believe produce a sound over a threshold of 85 dB. Students should cite 2 or 3 engineering methods to protect against harmful noise from these sources.
- Measuring Noise Pollution Pre-Activity Survey (docx)
- Measuring Noise Pollution Pre-Activity Survey (pdf)
- Measuring Noise Pollution Pre-Activity Survey Answer Key (docx)
- Measuring Noise Pollution Pre-Activity Survey Answer Key (pdf)
- Measuring Noise Pollution Worksheet (docx)
- Measuring Noise Pollution Worksheet (pdf)
- Measuring Noise Pollution Worksheet Answer Key (docx)
- Measuring Noise Pollution Worksheet Answer Key (pdf)
- What is pollution? Have you ever heard of noise pollution? What is noise pollution?
- What tools might we use to record sound? What can we use to measure sound level?
- What unit of measure do we use to measure sound level?
Activity Embedded Assessment
Brüel & Kjær. Environnemental Noise Measurement. Cafe Foundation. Accessed January 3, 2013. (This booklet answers many basic questions about environmental noise criteria and environmental noise measurements.) http://cafefoundation.org/v2/pdf_tech/Noise.Technologies/PAV.Environ.Noise.B&K.pdf
Human Noise Has Ripple Effects on Plants: Clamor affects more than birds and other animals. Published March 20, 2012. National Science Foundation. Press Release 12-052. Accessed January 7, 2013. http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=123538
Noise Control Act of 1972. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed January 3, 2013. http://www.epa.gov/air/noise/noise_control_act_of_1972.pdf
Violet Mwaffo, Jerib Carson and Qianqian Lin at the Madiba Prep Middle School
© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2012 Polytechnic Institute of New York University
AMPS GK-12 Program, Polytechnic Institute of New York University
Last modified: April 1, 2015