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Understanding light and sound through visual representations and robotics

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Keywords: Sound and Light, Senses, Robotics
Subject(s): Physics, Science, Biology
Grades 3 through 5
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: Roosevelt Middle School, Port Angeles, WA
Planned By: Jennifer Richards
Original Author: Jennifer Richards, Port Angeles
Objectives: Students will be able to
- discuss and catalog the different ways that scientists use visual representations of sounds.
- develop connections between human senses and robotics.
- describe how robots sense, think and act by reacting to light stimuli.
- compare and contrast the ways in which humans and robots sense and react to stimuli.
- identify the similarities and differences between sound waves and electromagnetic light waves.
- compare and contrast the different ways we can study changes in the input magnitude of sound and light.

Small groups of students will create their own robots that will sense and react to varying magnitudes of light. Students will work collaboratively in their group to construct a simple, three-part robot out of Cubelets (one that senses brightness and produces light). Once the robot is complete, they will investigate and discover what input the robot is sensing and then reacting to by changing it's output. They will be guided by the teacher with open ended questions such as:
What do you think the robot is sensing?
Is there anything that works repeatedly to make the robot's light turn on?
Can you do something to make the light shine more or less?
What helps change the amount of response?

As a class, we will compare our findings about how our robots sensed and reacted to light to our findings about how humans sense and react to sound (done previously). We will consider how the lightwaves our robot sensed and produced could be represented visually (similar to the spectrograms we made to represent sound in our acoustical engineering unit). We will discuss how lightwaves have amplitude and frequency, just like sound waves, even though they are a different type of wave. We will conclude with the creation of a Venn diagram that demonstrates our understanding of the similarities and differences between how scientists can study and represent changes in the magnitude of sound and light.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
This lesson will follow and compliment our acoustical engineering unit on sound from Engineering is Elementary.
Materials: Elementary
Other Items: 1 Cubelets Twelve Kit , $329.95 each, total of $329.95