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How can you amplify the music from a mobile phone?


Core National Curriculum links

Science, DT

Main engineering principles

  • Pupils are engaged in the purposeful practical problem solving
  • Pupils take ownership of the design and make process
  • Pupils embrace and learn from failure
  • Pupils’ curiosity and creativity is responded to
  • Pupils draw on a range of thinking skills and personal capabilities


About a lesson


System thinking, Adapting, Problem finding, Creative problem solving, Visualising, Improving

EDP stages

Imagine, Plan, Create

Resources required

Different size tubes (Pringles/kitchen roll etc), iphone/mobile, ipads/laptops, craft knives, selection of malleable materials (tissue/felt/foil/cardboard), data loggers (optional), glue, paper, card, pens, pencils.

Summary of activity

Pupils make a sound amplifier from a tube; using enquiry skills to investigate one changed variable (comparative test) e.g. tube length or filling material.

To open the activity

Concept cartoon - pupils standing in a cave/tunnel.  Why do their voices sound different inside? What do pupils think is happening?  Share any new vocab which may be required for this lesson.

The main activity

NB.  If pupils are not familiar with data loggers, they may need a short lesson on how to use these in advance.
1. Share the resources with the pupils.  Tell them that you need an eco-friendly speaker/amplifier for the bathroom so it cannot be electrical and don't want to use batteries.  It needs to be attractive but functional so that the sound appears louder but of good quality.
2. Allow pupils thinking and planning time to explore the resources, search for ideas online and experiment (mixed ability groups). They could create a mini-plan on paper.
3. Return to whole class - what do we think we can do with what we have available? How?  Share findings from the web on the class IWB.
4. Guide pupils towards creating a sitting point for the mobile on top of the tube and putting different materials inside the tube to change the sound quality. 
5. Pupils will decide whether to test the materials or the tube length by setting up a comparative test.  Support as apt with the investigation, according to pupils's experience and skill level.
6. Allow the pupils to conduct their investigation and record their findings.  Remind pupils that they could use a datalogger to collect sound data, but discuss using the same piece of music to test at the same volume.  Pupils may also compare their opinions of any change in sound quality (not just volume).
7. Share findings with others.  WWW & EBI.

Challenge and support

Less able:
a) supported by peers in mixed ability groups
b) may need support with recording data (scaffold with pre-prepared table)
More able:
a) could create an independent table of results
b) could put data into a chart/graph
c) may suggest reasons for findings and further areas for improvement

To finish the activity

Pupils share their amplifiers and trial each as a whole class. Which sounds the best and why? Introduce the issue of subjective opinions and preferences - bassier, pitch etc.  Is it just about volume? Consider end user.

Learn from me (what worked well for us)

Pupils will need support with making the tube sit upright without falling over!  Support as apt - use bulldog clips, blutac etc.

Links for pupils

Youtube and web links to see other people's ideas/creations

Links for teachers

Subject knowledge - sound, pitch, volume, sound proofing, amplifying.  How to use a datalogger guide.

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