Grade Range
4th
Group Size
Entire class
Active Time
40 minutes
Total Time
40 minutes
Area of Science
Computer Science
Key Concepts
Light, sound, vibrations, signals, communication, graphing and understanding data
Learning Objectives
  • State what a microphone, light sensor, and accelerometer measure.
  • Compare different methods to send a signal and determine which one works best over shorter versus longer distances.
  • Interpret graphical data from a microphone, light sensor, or accelerometer and give explanations of what could have caused changes in the graph.
Credits
Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies
Drawing of sounds being recorded on a smartphone with phone app

Overview

Here is a challenge for your students: you need to send a number to someone on the other side of the classroom. The twist? You are not allowed to talk, write the number down, or use gestures or sign language! How would you do it? In this project, your students will explore different means of transmitting information by sending a message to a phone that can graph light, sound, and vibrations using a specific sensor app. They will learn about different sensors and interpreting graphs, and use the data they gather to collaborate and determine how best to transmit the message.

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
  • 4-PS4-3. Generate and compare multiple solutions that use patterns to transfer information.
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions. Generate and compare multiple solutions to a problem based on how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the design solution.
ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution. Different solutions need to be tested in order to determine which of them best solves the problem, given the criteria and the constraints.
Patterns. Similarities and differences in patterns can be used to sort and classify designed products.

Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology. Knowledge of relevant scientific concepts and research findings is important in engineering.

Materials


A smartphone next to a flashlight
  • Flashlight
  • Smartphone with a sensor app such as phyphox, available for free on Google Play for Android devices (version 4.0 or newer) or from the App Store for iOS devices (iOS 9.0 or newer).
    Note: Phyphox does not support the light sensor on iOS devices. If you need the light sensor, you have to use Android devices for your experiment. Note that on some devices the light sensor is only updated when there is a coarse change of illuminance. This means that if the light intensity does not change or only changes slightly, the sensor appears to not record any data. The recording will continue once the light intensity changes again. If your experiments allows, it helps to wiggle the phone or the light source (e.g. flashlight) slightly to induce minimal reading fluctuations and keep the sensor active.

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Grade Range
4th
Group Size
Entire class
Active Time
40 minutes
Total Time
40 minutes
Area of Science
Computer Science
Key Concepts
Light, sound, vibrations, signals, communication, graphing and understanding data
Credits
Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies
Learning Objectives
  • State what a microphone, light sensor, and accelerometer measure.
  • Compare different methods to send a signal and determine which one works best over shorter versus longer distances.
  • Interpret graphical data from a microphone, light sensor, or accelerometer and give explanations of what could have caused changes in the graph.
Free science fair projects.