Create a Morse Code Device

Unit Overview [Note: This unit is currently being revised]

Real world problem: You and your friends want to send messages to each other across a long distance (for example, a soccer field or lake) during the day. It’s too bright outside to use flashlights. How could you communicate to each other using objects from your surroundings?

Educational outcomes

  • Students are able to articulate ideas on how they could communicate with their friends across long distances.
  • Students are able to organize, represent, and interpret data between the categories of pitch and loudness.
  • Students can plan and conduct investigations to provide evidence that vibrating materials can make sound.
  • Students can plan and conduct investigations to provide evidence that sound can cause materials to vibrate.

STEAM Integration

For the design challenge at the end of this unit, students will be asked to create devices that allow them to communicate using sounds rather than speech. To prepare for the challenge, students will be learning how different sounds can be created by various vibrating materials. They will learn that sound pitch and volume can change depending on the size of vibrating object. To learn these concepts, students will conduct tests on various objects in their school and home environment and classify these objects by pitch and loudness.

Standards

NGSS 1-PS4-1: Plan and conduct investigations to provide evidence that vibrating materials can make sound and that sound can make materials vibrate.

NGSS 1-PS4-2: Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that objects in darkness can be seen only when illuminated.

NGSS 1-PS4-3: Plan and conduct investigations to determine the effect of placing objects made with different materials in the path of a beam of light.

NGSS 1-PS4-4: Use tools and materials to design and build a device that uses light or sound to solve the problem of communicating over a distance.

Unit Materials

This unit can be completed using the RAFT Makerspace-in-a-Box kit. The kit contains many items with various attributes useful for different purposes by students. Examples include rigid items for structure such as craft sticks, plastic rods, and cardboard tubes; flexible/cuttable items such as foam, chenille stems, straws, and cardstock for making customized structures; and items serving as connectors such as paper clips, binder clips, and stickers/tape. Although the exact contents of each Makerspace-in-a-Box kit may vary, we try to make sure there are items included that serve the purposes mentioned above and possibly more! Some lessons will call for additional items not included in the kit. We encourage facilitators to be creative and provide students with additional materials to explore in the lessons. For more information, contact us at education@raft.net 

Maker Journal Pages

Lesson 2 Maker Journal Page

Lesson 3 Maker Journal Page

Lesson 4 Maker Journal Page

Design Challenge Maker Journal Pages

Tips for an Active Classroom

Communication is critical in the design process. Students need to be allowed to talk, stand, and move around to acquire materials. Help students become successful and care for the success of others by asking them to predict problems that might arise in the active environment and ask them to suggest strategies for their own behavior that will ensure a positive working environment for all students and teachers.

Design Thinking Overview

Our integrated STEAM units incorporate a non-linear design thinking model, with each phase being repeatable to allow students to rework and iterate while developing a deeper understanding of the core concepts. The phases of the design thinking model are:

Empathize: Work to fully understand the experience of the user

Define: Process and synthesize findings from empathy work to form a user point of view

Ideate: Explore a wide range and variety of possible ideas for solutions

Prototype: Transform ideas into a physical form with which to learn and interact

Test: Refine prototypes, learn more about the user, and refine original point of view


Lesson 1: History of Communication (30 minutes)

Overview

Students learn about different means of verbal and non-verbal communication through discussion, videos, and demonstration. Students identify and list the communication methods and categorize them as old or modern after first learning some history on communication. The teacher demonstrates a non-verbal form of communication based on student input in the form of yes/no questions.

Learning Targets

  • Students will be able to identify current and past methods of human communication
  • Students will be able to generate yes/no questions that can be answered non-verbally

Essential Questions

  • What are some ways people have communicated with each other throughout history?
  • How might we communicate non-verbally in class?

Materials

LESSON PROCEDURE

  1. Start a 5-10 minute discussion with students on their familiarity with forms of communication. See the sample teacher-student dialog below for examples of teacher questions and students responses. Record and display student responses physically on chart paper or digitally.
  2. Present or have students access this video: Means of Communication for Kids (3:34).
  3. Students list or draw some of the communication methods discussed in the video.
  4. Students circle the items in their lists that they believe to be the oldest and then underline the items they think are the newest forms of communication.
  5. Present or have students access this video: Pocket History of Communication (5:55).
  6. Call on some students to share their examples of past and present forms of communication. Have students revisit their lists and make corrections where necessary.
  7. Demonstration: Hold up an object, e.g. tennis ball, and tell students it will be used as a symbol for a “yes” response. Hold up a pen or pencil and identify it as a symbol for a “no” response. Students are to think about and write down 1-3 questions about the teacher, class, or other topic determined by the teacher that can be answered with yes or no (binary responses).
  8. Summarize the learning from this lesson (types and history of communication, yes/no questions, demonstrating non-verbal communication). Inform students that the next lesson will focus on the properties of sound, vibrations, and uses in communication.

Sample teacher and student dialog

T: “What are some ways we can communicate with each other? I’m communicating to you now by talking to you. I also write notes to you on your homework. What are some other ways we communicate?”

S: “Talking, sign language, flashing a light, hitting an object, phone calls!”

T: “What is your favorite way of communicating? What is your least favorite method? Why?”

S: “Social media, text messages, phone calls.”

T: “How might we communicate with someone who is standing really far away, like on the other side of a playground or soccer field, without electronics?”

S: “Yell, wave at them, move around.”

T: “This has been a problem for thousands of years, how to send messages to people really far away. Today we’ll learn about different means of communication (verbal, non-verbal) and also how these means have changed throughout history. We’ll model how to communicate non-verbally by asking yes/no-type questions and using objects as symbols for yes/no.”


Lesson 2: The Properties of Sound (30 minutes)

Overview

Students learn about the relationship between vibrations and sound discussion, videos, and an exploration. Students choose 3-5 different materials and then test the materials for their ability to make sound, with sound serving as evidence that vibration is taking place.

Learning Targets

  • Students will be able to identify materials that vibrate and make sound when struck, stretched, or tested by other means

Essential Questions

  • What is sound? What does it mean to vibrate?
  • What is the relationship between vibration and sound?
  • How do different materials make different sounds?

Materials

LESSON PROCEDURE

  1. Set the materials to be explored later in the lesson on a table or cart for students to access at the appropriate time. Queue the lesson videos if needed.
  2. Hold a 5-10 minute discussion with students to gauge their knowledge of sound and vibrations. Students write or draw their ideas on paper for what sound is and what causes it.
  3. Present or have students access this video: Sound is Vibration (1:18).
  4. Have students refine their ideas or drawing based on learning from the video. Call on 1-2 students to share their refined or new ideas.
  5. Present or have students access this video: Science World Resources: Sound (3:22).
  6. Have students identify materials the presenter used to make sound and the results (what he used and what happened). Call on students to share.
  7. Investigation: Students choose 3-5 different materials with assistance if needed. Students can make sounds with rigid materials by striking them with another object. For stretchy or flexible materials such as fabrics, rubber bands, or paper, it might be better to first mount these materials onto another rigid object such as a container and then pluck, strike, or bang them on flat surfaces. Encourage students to leverage their learning from the videos as well, allowing them to try the methods presented!
  8. Students record their observations in the lesson Maker Journal page.
  9. Summarize the learning from this lesson (examples of sound and its causes, relationship between sound and vibration, different materials can cause different sounds/vibrations).
  10. Optional: In lieu of a variety of materials, students can explore the relationship between sound and vibration using the RAFT Glove-A-Phone kit.

Sample teacher and student dialog

T: “Can anyone tell me what sound is (provide examples)?”

S: “Music, talking, car horns, vibrations through the air.”

T: “Those are all correct! What do you think causes sound?”

S: “Hitting something, plugging in and turning on a radio, soundwaves!”

T: ”Again, these are great answers. Today we’ll learn that sounds are vibrations that move through materials. We’ll watch a few cool videos to give us a little background and then we’ll investigate the relationship between sound and vibrations by trying to make sounds with different materials I have for you. Are you ready? Let’s go!”

Assessment

Review student Maker Journal responses. Students should have recorded information demonstrating their understanding that sound is caused by vibration and that different vibrating materials can cause different sounds.


Lesson 3: Properties of Light (30 minutes)

Overview

This lesson will give students a chance to compare the lengths and widths or objects against other objects. (K.MD.A.2)

Essential Questions

  • How do you know if something has more or less width or height when compared to another object?

LESSON PROCEDURE

This lesson begins with a teacher-led discussion and exploration, and then moves into a small group activity.

Sample teacher and student dialog.

T: Pose some questions regarding more/less to get students thinking.  “Do we have more markers, or scissors in our class? What is the tallest piece of furniture in our room?  Who is our tallest classmate?”

S: More markers, the big bookshelf is taller…

T: “Let’s practice.  Look at the writing tools in our class.  (pencil, crayon, marker, colored pencil, etc.) Let’s arrange these by height.  Which tool has more height than the others?  Which has less?”

S: Several students demonstrate arranging writing tools by height.

T: “Now let’s arrange these by width.  What do I mean when I say width?

S: Students offer definition of width, and rearrange the writing tools.

T: “Let’s practice with some books now.  Who can help use arrange these books by height?”

S: Several students arrange books by height.

T: “Which book has more height, which has less?”  Consider repeating with width or depth as time allows, or if students need more practice.

DOWNLOAD STUDENT PAGE

T: “You will now practice measuring things in our classroom to know what is bigger or smaller.  Find 3 things in the classroom to compare.  You will draw your objects in your Maker Journal page.” Demonstrating where to draw objects on a sample Maker Journal page. “What if you want to compare the door way and thebookshelf?  How will you know which one has more width without moving the bookshelf next to the door?”

S: Various suggestions.  Guide students towards the idea that they will need to measure both objects.

T: “You can use a measuring tool to measure how wide each object is, and then you can figure out which has more width.  For this, we will use pieces of string.  Hold one end at the edge of what you are measuring, and see how far along the string that object reaches.” Demonstrate measuring something immobile with a string.


T: “Look at your Maker Journal page.  Is the tallest object also the widest?”

S: Various answers depending on student work.

Learning Targets

Students will be able to:

  • Use tools and materials to design a device that uses sound to communicate a message.
  • Explain and show sound vibrations.
  • Understand that sounds can be useful for sending messages, and identify sounds that send different types of messages.

Assessment

Student Self Assessment

Students review their own method for using sound to communicating over a distance. Students evaluate whether their explanation clearly addresses how sound can be useful (and not so useful) communication devices.

Peer Assessment

Student teams discuss and compare their findings and share different viewpoints. Students should compare and explain what they feel about communicating with different sound sources.

Teacher Assessment

Review student makerspace journal pages for formative assessment and discuss with individuals as they work.

Conduct a whole group discussion to allow all students to share, discuss , compare, and reason their abilities to communicate with sound over a distance.

Lesson Materials

Building Materials:

RAFT Makerspace-in-a-box           -or-

One RAFT “Glove-a-Phone”  (click on link) to be made per student (or small balloons/latex gloves, straws, cardboard tubes of various lengths and widths), scissors, laminate samples, dust covers, foam pieces, deli containers, fishboard, cardboard tubes, plas core scraps, posters, shower caps, scrap materials, cards, CD’s, access to light sources (windows, flashlights, etc.), tape, glue, scissors, timer, measuring devices, etc.

Connecting Materials:

Various adhesives, connectors, and fasteners (e.g., masking tape rubber bands, paperclips, binder clips, thread, yarn, adhesive foam pads, wooden stir sticks, straws, spoons, pipettes, labels & stickers, etc.)

External Resources

Video: What is Sound?

Maker Journal Pages

Lesson 3 Maker Journal Page           

Teacher Notes

Always preview videos ahead of showing to the class.  Explain the concept of “sound communication” to the class.

Active Classroom

Communication is critical in the design process. Students need to be allowed to talk, stand, and move around to acquire materials. Tips for success in an active classroom environment:

1 –  Students can access any wall, board, or surface to gather and explore ideas — students personalize the working space to meet their needs.

2 – Students have regular opportunities to make choices, including choices about what they learn and how they learn it.

3 –Encourage students to learn and to demonstrate what they’ve learned in ways that best suit their individual learning styles.

4 – It is not a free-for-all!  Amount of prep and planning is evidenced by quality of student work and level of students’ engagement. All is carefully thought out in advance.

5 – Practice and predict clean-up strategies before beginning the activity. Ask students to offer suggestions for ensuring that they will leave a clean and useable space for the next activity. Students may enjoy creating very specific clean-up roles. Once these are established, the same student-owned strategies can be used every time hands-on learning occurs.


Lesson 4: How Does Morse Code Communicate? (40 min)

Lesson 4 Overview

How does Morse code communicate?

The focus on sound and light in this lesson uses a famous coding method based on symbol patterns to deliver messages over distances. Student teams will learn simple Morse code,  devise easy coded messages, and then pass them to another team to decode  (ELA/Literacy W.1.7 Participate in shared research and writing projects.)

Essential Questions:

  • What is a code? What is Morse code?
  • How can we design a device that uses light or sound to send a Morse code message?
  • How can we understand the message pattern?

 LESSON PROCEDURE:

  • Introduce students to sending a message by taping sounds and by flashing lights.
  • Introduce the concept of a code. Then give students a set of 10 easy symbols that could be used to send a Morse code. Students use only two or three of those symbols to convey a simple message.
  • Students record their simple messages in their Maker Journals, along with the decoded meaning of the message(s).
  • Students trade messages and attempt to decode each other’s message(s)

The following is a sample dialog between the teacher and the students in this lesson.

(Note:  T stands for teacher, and S stands for student, with additional advice in parenthesis)

Organize students into teams of 2 persons, and then assemble teams together for a whole group discussion. Show the Video: What is Morse Code?

T: What are codes?

S: a way to use symbols in certain patterns (sounds, etc.) to represent messages…

T: Patterns can be made out of sounds and out of lights—- can anyone show me a pattern by clapping their hands?

S: (answers vary … clap-clap-dah-clap-clap —pause — clap-clap!)

T: (Hold up a flashlight). Can anyone show me a light pattern using this flashlight?

S: (answers vary … a sequence of short flashes)

T: Let’s take a look at a clever machine that someone made a long time ago to send messages over long distances (show the video:  What is Morse Code?)

T: (After the video hand out Maker Journal Page). Discuss the pattern of dots and dashes shown on the Maker Journal page).  Notice different patterns of dots and dashes. A dot is one short sound — (make a short sound by buzzing lips, or clapping hands, and then have them repeat).

T: (Show them what a dash looks like, and then make a buzzing sound, or rubs hands together to make sound for 3 seconds). A dash is one longer 3 second sound. Now you do it.

T: Look at the letter “A” on the Morse Code chart. It has one dot and a space, and then one dash.  The sound for this would be …. (one short sound, a short pause, then 3 second sound ——— have them repeat).

T: Look for a different letter and raise your hand if you’d like to show us how it would sound.

S: (answers vary …) “S” sounds like this…; “D” sounds like this ….

T: Look at that! So far we know the Morse Code for the letters S, A, and D. What if we put them together to spell a word?  How about the word “SAD”! (Demonstrate how to do this, and then give students a few minutes to practice other code sounds — do this as long as you think they are understanding how to convert dots and dashes to sounds).

T: Now look at your Maker Journal Page.  You are shown a set of 10 easy symbols that could be used to send a Morse code. Work together with your teammate to make simple words with these symbols and try out different sounds to send them to another team. See if the other team can figure out your message!

(After awhile call time)

T: How could we have used a flashlight to send Morse Codes?

S: Quick on and off is a dot, and 3 seconds of light on is a dash.

Vocabulary:

Code: a system of signals such as sounds or lights) or symbols (such as letters of numbers) for communication used to represent assigned and often secret meanings.

Morse Code: Morse Code is a system of electronic communication. It uses dots, dashes, and spaces to represent letters, punctuation, and numbers. The symbols are arranged to spell out a message. A machine called a telegraph converts the symbols into electrical signals and sends them across a wire to their destination. The signals are then converted back into the message by the telegraph that receives them. 

Samuel Finley Breese Morse:   (April 27, 1791 – April 2, 1872) was an American painter and inventor. After having established his reputation as a portrait painter, in his middle age Morse contributed to the invention of a single-wire telegraph system based on European telegraphs. He was a co-developer of the Morse code and helped to develop the commercial use of telegraphy. Read more about the International Morse Code HERE.

Sound:  Vibrations that travel through the air or another medium and can be heard when they reach a person’s or animal’s ear. Light travels faster than sound.

  • Sound energy moves through a process of vibrating air molecules, which create a chain reaction of vibrating molecules that the ear perceives as sound.
  • The farther you are from the origin of the sound, the less the chance that you will be able to feel the vibration, and thus the less you can hear the sound.
  • The size of the object that begins the wave of sound energy will produce a different type of wave than another object that is a different size.
  • Sound energy, because it is based on vibrations, must travel through something: if you have a vacuum of space such as a black hole, there can be no sound.

Assessment

Student Self Assessment

Students review their own method for using sound signals to communicating over a distance. Students evaluate whether their explanation clearly addresses how coding can be useful (and not so useful) communication devices.

Students visit this site on SOS meaning and take the short interactive quiz that follows the article.

Peer Assessment

Student teams discuss and compare their findings and share different viewpoints. Students should compare and explain what they feel about communicating with sound codes.

Teacher Assessment

Review student makerspace journal pages for formative assessment and discuss with individuals as they work.

Conduct a whole group discussion to allow all students to share, discuss , compare, and reason their abilities to communicate with sound/codes over a distance.

Lesson Materials

Building Materials:

RAFT Makerspace-in-a-box           -or-

One RAFT “Glove-a-Phone”  (click on link) per student (or small balloons/latex gloves, straws, cardboard tubes of various lengths and widths), scissors, laminate samples, dust covers, foam pieces, deli containers, fishboard, cardboard tubes, plas core scraps, posters, shower caps, scrap materials, cards, CD’s, access to light sources (windows, flashlights, etc.), tape, glue, scissors, timer, measuring devices, etc.

Connecting Materials:

Various adhesives, connectors, and fasteners (e.g., masking tape rubber bands, paperclips, binder clips, thread, yarn, adhesive foam pads, wooden stir sticks, straws, spoons, pipettes, labels & stickers, etc.)

External Resources

Video: What is Morse Code?

Article: SOS Meaning and Quiz

Maker Journal Pages

Lesson 4: Maker Journal Page

Teacher Notes

Always preview videos ahead of showing to the class.  Explain the concept of “sound communication” to the class.

Active Classroom

Communication is critical in the design process. Students need to be allowed to talk, stand, and move around to acquire materials. Tips for success in an active classroom environment:

1 –  Students can access any wall, board, or surface to gather and explore ideas — students personalize the working space to meet their needs.

2 – Students have regular opportunities to make choices, including choices about what they learn and how they learn it.

3 –Encourage students to learn and to demonstrate what they’ve learned in ways that best suit their individual learning styles.

4 – It is not a free-for-all!  Amount of prep and planning is evidenced by quality of student work and level of students’ engagement. All is carefully thought out in advance.

5 – Practice and predict clean-up strategies before beginning the activity. Ask students to offer suggestions for ensuring that they will leave a clean and useable space for the next activity. Students may enjoy creating very specific clean-up roles. Once these are established, the same student-owned strategies can be used every time hands-on learning occurs.

Learning Targets

Students will be able to:

Send a simple Morse code message using sound to communicate a short message over a distance.


Design Challenge: Create a Morse Code Device (45 min)

Overview

Students apply their learning from previous lessons on sound, light, and Morse Code to design and build a communication device that can send a message across a distance to another person. They choose between using sound or light as the means of communication and apply the design process described in the steps below. Students test their designs and describe design features that meet the criteria and constraints for the challenge.

Learning Targets

  • Students will be able to design and build a device that uses light or sound to solve the problem of communicating over a distance
  • Students will be able to describe specific features of their design that meet the defined criteria and constraints

Essential Question

How can we design and build a device that communicates a message over a distance using sound or light?

Materials

  • RAFT Makerspace-in-a-box
  • Access to light sources (windows, flashlights, lamps, etc.)
  • Tape (masking or scotch)
  • Scissors, staplers, hole punches rulers
  • Computers or mobile devices
  • Internet access

LESSON PROCEDURE

  1. Present and explain the essential question, which is the design prompt for this challenge.
  2. Briefly review the topics covered throughout the unit, clarifying and supporting student understanding where needed.
  3. Review and define the criteria and constraints listed below.
  4. Assign student teams or assign students to specific groups. The student teams choose one of the two options, sound or light, for their design.
  5. Students follow steps outlined and record their progress in the Maker Journal pages for this design challenge (see below).
  6. Students describe to the class and/or another audience: 1) how their device meets the criteria and constraints, 2) How the device provides a solution to the problem, and 3) how using light or sound to communicate over long distances is helpful.

The criteria and constraints for this challenge, which can simply be introduced as “the rules”, are listed below. Criteria are the requirements for the design or its expected functions or abilities. Constraints are limitations on the design such as time, space, available materials, money, etc. The criteria and constraints are also listed in the Maker Journal pages for this challenge.

Criteria

  • Device must be able to send a message at least the distance across the classroom
  • Device clearly uses light or sound to communicate a message
  • Device is portable

Constraints

  • Device must be built using only the materials provided
  • Device must be completed and tested in the given time
  • Device must be easily put together and taken apart
  • Device must not be secured to the ground or testing area in any way

Ideate Phase

Student teams brainstorm lots of ideas for how they could design the device given the criteria and constraints. Give students a short amount of time to quickly brainstorm their ideas either by using sticky notes or a digital brainstorming platform (Google docs, other). Keep in mind students may return to this phase as many times as needed.

Prototype Phase

Teams build a model of their design based on ideas generated in the Ideate Phase. Students may return to this phase as they proceed building and testing their designs. Initially they will have a rough prototype that will eventually get better as they try it and make refinements. Students will record simple drawings of their prototype in the Maker Journal pages.

Test Phase

Students test their prototype according to how it meets all criteria and constraints. If the device fails to meet any of them, students may need to return to the ideation or prototype phase and refine their prototypes, retest them until a final, optimized model is reached. Students will use the checklist provided in the Maker Journal pages to evaluate their designs.

Assessment

Review student Maker Journal pages for completeness and quality. Students should have a record of their ideas, drawings, and reflections. Conduct a whole group discussion to allow students to share, discuss and compare their findings. Look for evidence of understanding of sound, vibrations, communication methods, and creativity.

Maker Journal Pages

Lesson 5: Maker Journal Page: Criteria & Constraints                                 

Lesson 5: Maker Journal Page: Ideate  

Lesson 5: Maker Journal Page: Prototype & Test

Lesson 5: Maker Journal Page: Design Challenge