Students are introduced to sound energy concepts and how engineers use sound energy. Through hands-on activities and demonstrations, students examine how we know sound exists by listening to and seeing sound waves. They learn to describe sound in terms of its pitch, volume and frequency. They explore how sound waves move through liquids, solids and gases. They also identify the different pitches and frequencies, and create high- and low-pitch sound waves.
Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.
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- Colorado: Science
- a. Identify and describe the variety of energy sources (Grade 4)  ...show
- International Technology and Engineering Educators Association: Technology
- C. Energy comes in different forms. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- Next Generation Science Standards: Science
- Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents. (Grade 4)  ...show
- Give several examples of engineering products that involve sound.
- Describe sound as a form of energy.
- Define volume, pitch and frequency as they relate to sound energy.
- Describe sound energy as traveling in waves.
- Explain sound as a form of communication.
- To describe longitudinal waves, grab a few coils of the spring and let go of them. As the students watch the waves travel through the spring, explain that these waves are longitudinal waves. Explain that the release of the coils represents the source of the sound vibration and that this sound is moving longitudinally across the slinky. Harmonic sound waves are usually longitudinal waves.
- To show transverse waves, strike the spring at right angles to its length. Have the students describe the up and down motion of the spring. Explain that this motion represents transverse waves. Radio waves are examples of transverse waves used by engineers to send messages over long distances. Transverse waves also travel on the strings of instruments, such as guitars and banjos.
- If possible, show Professor Dan Russell's excellent online animation of longitudinal and transverse waves at http://www.acs.psu.edu/drussell/Demos/waves/wavemotion.html.
Lesson Background and Concepts for Teachers
|Doppler Effect:||A change in the observed frequency of a wave, as of sound or light, occurring when the source and observer are in motion relative to each other, with the frequency increasing when the source and observer approach each other and decreasing when they move apart. The motion of the source causes a real shift in frequency of the wave, while the motion of the observer produces only an apparent shift in frequency. Also called Doppler shift.|
|Frequency:||The rate of vibrations in different pitches.|
|Infrasonic sound:||Sound waves or vibrations with frequencies below that of audible sound (too low for human hearing).|
|Longitudinal wave:||In a longitudinal wave, the particle displacement is parallel to the direction of wave propagation. Each particle simply oscillates back and forth. The wave is seen as the motion of the compressed region that moves from left to right. See excellent animation at http://www.kettering.edu/~drussell/Demos/waves/wavemotion.html.|
|Molecules:||The particles that move in a sound wave. Sound needs molecules to move.|
|Pitch:||The highness or lowness of a sound.|
|Radio wave:||An electromagnetic wave within the range of radio frequencies.|
|Sonar:||A system using transmitted and reflected underwater sound waves to detect and locate submerged objects or measure the distance to the floor of a body of water. Sonar apparatus is installed on ships and submarines.|
|Sound:||Something that is heard.|
|Sound energy:||Audible energy that is released when you talk, play musical instruments or slam a door.|
|Sound wave:||A longitudinal pressure wave of audible or inaudible sound.|
|Transverse wave:||In a transverse wave, the particle displacement is perpendicular to the direction of wave propagation. Each particle simply oscillates up and down as the wave passes by. See excellent animation at http://www.kettering.edu/~drussell/Demos/waves/wavemotion.html.|
|Ultrasound:||Sound waves or vibrations with frequencies above that of audible sound (too high for human hearing).|
|Volume:||When sound becomes louder or softer.|
|Vibrations:||When something moves back and forth, it is said to vibrate. Sound is made by vibrations that are usually too fast to see.|
|Wave:||A disturbance that travels through a medium, such as air or water.|
- Seeing and Feeling Sound Vibrations - Students examine how we know sound exists by listening to and seeing sound waves. They describe sound in terms of its pitch, volume and frequency. They further learn how biomedical engineers study sound waves to help people who cannot hear or talk.
- Traveling Sound - Students explore how sound waves move through solids, liquids and gases in a series of simple sound energy experiments. They see how engineers use their understanding of the properties of sound energy when designing recording studios, libraries and concert halls.
- Pitch and Frequency - Students identify the different pitches and frequencies created by a vibrating ruler and a straw kazoo. They create high- and low-pitch sound waves.
- What do you know about waves?
- Have you seen waves at the ocean or in a pool?
- What are the differences and similarities of waves on a stormy day and waves on a calm day?
- What did you learn about sound? (Possible answers: Three characteristics of sound are volume, pitch and frequency. Sound travels in waves. Sound needs molecules to travel.)
- What is the Doppler Effect? (Answer: It is what happens to how we hear sound if it is moving. For example, as a vehicle passes a person who is standing still. As the car travels a small distance away from a person between sending each sound wave, the sound waves are more stretched out, and the resulting pitch sounds lower.)
- Can our ears hear all sounds? (Answer: No. Some sounds are too high or too low for human hearing. Some animals hear ultrasounds — frequencies that are too high-pitched for our ears to detect. Other creatures detect infrasonic sounds — frequencies that are too low for our ears to detect.)
- How is sound a form of energy? (Answer: By moving molecules and making them vibrate, sound waves are doing work, which defines energy.)
- How is sound used? (Answer: We use sound to communicate, learn, warn others and express ideas. Engineers incorporate the principles of sound energy to make amazing medical devices, navigational instruments and electronic equipment.)
Lesson Summary Assessment
Lesson Extension Activities
Dictionary.com. Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. Accessed October 3, 2005. (Source of vocabulary definitions, with some adaptation.)
Energy Quest, Energy Education, California Energy Commission. http://www.energyquest.ca.gov/index.html Accessed October 3, 2005.
Farndon, J., James, I., Johnson, J., Royston, A., Steele, P. and Walters, M. Giant Book of Questions and Answers. Italy: Dempsey Parr, 1998.
Graham, I., Taylor, B, Farndon, J. and Oxlade, C. Science Encyclopedia, 1999, pp. 78-90.
Kids Zone. U.S. Department of Energy. http://energy.gov/ Accessed October 3, 2005.
Lowery, L. The Everyday Science Sourcebook. CA: Dale Seymour Publications, 1985, pp. 232-233.
Russell, Daniel A. Longitudinal and Transverse Wave Motion, Acoustics and Vibrations Animations. Updated 2001. Applied Physics, Kettering University, Flint, MI. http://www.acs.psu.edu/drussell/Demos/waves/wavemotion.html Accessed October 3, 2005. (Excellent animations of wave motion)
Russell, Daniel A. Physics and Acoustics of Baseball and Softball Bats. Updated June 20, 2005. Applied Physics, Kettering University, Flint, MI. http://www.acs.psu.edu/drussell/bats.html Accessed October 3, 2005.
Sharon Perez, Natalie Mach, Malinda Schaefer Zarske, Denise Carlson
© 2005 by Regents of the University of Colorado.
Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder
Last modified: October 8, 2015