Coffee Can Speakers: Amazing Energy Transformersby: Kevin Wise and Monica Hawke

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We live with a dizzying array of electronic devices—cell phones, mp3 players, and DVD players to name a few. Students can operate them with amazing ease, but what do they really know about the basic science concepts used in these technologies? After asking some questions to our fifth-grade classes, we discovered that most students know that electronic devices like cell phones use electrical energy from a battery to produce sound energy through a speaker. However, when we asked them to explain how exactly a speaker makes sound there was a deafening silence! No one had a clue. That was our cue to develop this high-impact activity in which students build, test, and improve their own “coffee can” speakers to observe firsthand how loudspeakers work to convert electrical energy to sound. The activity is appropriate for students in grades three to six and lends itself best to students accustomed to working in groups and who have already done some hands-on investigations with electricity, magnetism, and sound.

  • Elementary
  • Middle
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Reviews (3)
  • on Wed Apr 15, 2020 4:34 PM

I chose to put this article in my library, because it had very specific information on a cool project that I could use for my students in science. This article talked all about how students can turn coffee cans into speakers, which seemed quite fascinating just from the thought of it. I thought this was a really cool way for students to learn about energy and electrical energy is transformed into sound. In the article, it was stated that this was used for a fifth grade classroom, so I found the perfect TEK that would go along with this project, which is 5.6.A. I could also use 5.3.A, which talks about students using investigation and reasoning to analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations. I agree with this whole article and did not find anything that I opposed to, because this project looks like it would be both beneficial and fun for my students.

Samantha Lloyd
Samantha Lloyd

  • on Tue Apr 14, 2020 7:53 PM

I chose this article because it revolved around a hands-on activity that seemed so fun yet informational at the same time. I believe that students learn more thoroughly when given hands-on interactive learning experiences. This article can be used in the classroom to teach students about energy transformers by focusing on how electrical energy can be converted into sound through a speaker. The activity in this article teaches students how to build, test, and improve their own homemade “coffee can” speakers to observe firsthand how loudspeakers work to convert electrical energy to sound. Now a days we are surrounded by electronic devices all of which students operate with ease. This article teaches students about the basic science concepts used in these technologies. I would use this article to address the fifth-grade elementary science TEK’s (A)1.A and (B)6.A. This article can be used to further discuss and advance on the topic of energy, more specifically electrical energy and how to create and demonstrate it. This article is very detailed and thorough in regard to the instructions for creating and using the coffee can speaker and provides suggestions for improving your speaker. The article also describes how energy is produced and talks about the energy transfer that occurs when using the coffee can speaker. Being that this was a very detailed and well written article, I do not have any questions about it. Overall, I think that is was a great article and I would definitely implement it into my classroom.

Kaila Wright
Kaila Wright

  • on Mon Apr 04, 2011 2:48 PM

This article outlines an excellent hands-on activity that enables students to explore how sound travels in soundwaves. The activity uses inexpensive materials to fully engage students in learning. This is a great activity that will surely engage students in physical science.

Maureen Stover  (Seaside, CA)
Maureen Stover (Seaside, CA)

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