Sound Dampening Vehicle

In this design challenge, youth will explore engineering concepts and sound design, create their own vehicles, and compete to see who can create the lightest and quietest vehicle.

  • Smart phone with the Science Journal app by the Making & Science team at Google

  • Box or clear container large enough to hold phone and surrounding materials

  • Craft supplies (materials of varying densities that youth can use as insulation). Each group should get one unique material. Examples: cotton balls, egg cartons, cardboard, cloth, etc.

  • Scissors

  • Tape or glue

  • Speaker

  • Song to play during testing

  • Phone Holder handout (best to print on hard stock paper)

  • Scale (optional)

    Teacher tip: the scale is only necessary if you’d like to add a competitive feel, or if you’d like to set a limit on the maximum weight of the “vehicle”

  1. Review Getting Started with Sound tutorial.

  2. Print out the Phone Holder handout.

  3. Select a song to play for the warm up and as the control sound for when testing vehicles.

Introduction and Warm Up (10 min)
  1. Did you know that long or repeated exposure to noise levels at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss? What are some loud things around the room? How many decibels do you think they are?

    • Activity: Model how to use the Science Journal app. Test sound levels of loud items around the room that the youth pointed out. Play music until it reaches 85 decibels or gets too loud.

  2. Engineers often design vehicles and structures so that sound doesn't travel well through walls. How else have you seen sound dampening used? (sound studios use foam triangles, homes use insulation (denim), an anechoic chamber, etc.)

  3. How can you make a car more quiet? (Sounds dampening materials, ride cushioning, engine/motor silencing, muffling of exhaust)

  4. Why not use really dense material to block sounds? (Weight, cost, amount of material needed to dampen)

Introduce Sound Engineering Challenge (5 min)
  1. Allow youth to break up into group of 2-4 students. Introduce the challenge: Your group will design your own vehicle cabins to create the quietest cabin, while keeping weight low.

  2. Explain to the class that each group will use the Science Journal app to record sound levels. The recorded data will allow them to see how well their vehicle dampens sound. Let the class know that the sound engineering challenge will take place in two parts. In the first part, groups will brainstorm how to best dampen noise, and then create and test their ideas. In the second part, groups will take what they learned from the first part, and redesign their vehicles. The goal is to create the quietest vehicle while keeping it light.

Preparing the Phone Holder (5 min)

Inform youth that they will be making a Phone Holder using the Phone Holder handout. The Phone Holder is to keep the phone encased and to ensure that the microphone isn’t blocked by the dampening material.

  1. Use scissors to cut along the dotted lines on the Phone Holder handout.

  2. Fold the Phone Holder handout along the dashed lines.

  3. Tape the square folds to the adjacent walls of the Phone Holder. You should now have two boxes(bottom and lid) to place a smartphone into.

Sound Engineering Challenge (40 min)
  1. Pass out smartphones to each group

    • Ask groups to start a new trial and make noises into the phone to show how their sounds affect the graphs. Allow for a few minutes for the youth to explore their collected data.

  2. Set baseline sound levels

    • Record one trial for 30 seconds with the room silent to create a baseline level for the room at ambient sound level.

    • Record one trial for 30 seconds with the pre-selected song playing create a baseline level for the room at the loudest sound level.

  3. Sound Engineering Challenge Part 1

    • Each group will be assigned a unique material to work with as their dampening material. Allow them time to brainstorm how to pack their vehicle to make it the quietest.

    • When groups are ready to test their designs, handout the materials.

    • Before placing the smartphone into the Phone Holder, start a new trail and begin recording. Once the new trial begins, place smartphone into the Phone Holder and cover the phone.

    • Place the Phone Holder with the smartphone enclosed into the designed vehicle and close the container. 

    • Wait 10 seconds to create a marker in the graph of when the music begins to play.

    • Play the pre-selected song for 15 seconds.

    • Open up the vehicle and observe the sound readings. Be sure not to use the given Min, Max, and Average as they include recordings of the Phone Holder being placed into the container.

    • As a group, discuss their results.

      • How did their sound levels compare to the sound levels of the ambient room sounds and music playing without the dampening?

      • How did the materials dampening abilities compare to each other?

  4. Sound Engineering Challenge Part 2

    • Brainstorm new ways of dampening sounds.

      • Could less material be used and still provide the same results?

      • Will adding more material dampening sound?

      • Can you change the structure of the material to increase sound dampening?

      • Can you combine materials to increase sound dampening?

    • Test it out the new ideas! Repeat steps.

  5. Wrap Up

    • What worked? What didn't?

    • How would you improve on your design?

Further Discussions and Investigations
  • How can you design a city to reduce sound?

  • How are animals affected by noise pollution?

  • How does it affect animals that rely on sound to navigate(whales, dolphins)?

  • How loud do you listen to music with your headphones?

  • How loud does your car, bus, or train get?

Appropriate for: 6th Grade - 9th Grade
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Activity Time: 60 minutes
Subjects: Engineering & Technology

Attached Files

Science Journal an initiative by Google logo