The science of sound

22 January 2014

Seven villages and small towns in north-east Somerset were visited during the autumn half-term holiday with a hands-on “What’s all the noise about?” workshop dealing with the science of sound.

The workshops were created with the help of a public engagement grant from the IOP with the aim of developing portable physics activities for use in roadshows aimed at rural areas and areas of social deprivation.

The University of Bath’s Physics Department and the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute (BRLSI) made a joint application for the grant, and a group of seven of the university’s students and six BRLSI volunteers worked on developing and delivering the workshops.

They were designed to be delivered in venues where the only facilities and equipment required from the host were access to water, one electric socket and six tables.

All the participants and hosts were very impressed and pleased. There were very good post-workshop evaluations and various people commented on how good it was to have science “instead of the usual art and craft provision”.

Here are a few comments from the children: “I really liked all the noise and sounds. It was the vibrations in the tube and listening to the telephone paper cup.” “What I liked is how they explained everything and getting to do things and writing it down and having sheets to take home.” “I liked looking at all the things and drawing what I was doing and writing all the stuff down.” “Amaaaaazing! I loved every single bit of the workshop. I think that they were all tip top a roo!” “I liked finding out about sounds. Using the oscilloscope with the microphone was good because you could actually see the sound making the waves and change the shape of the green line with different noises.” “What I liked most was learning a bit more than I thought.”

The students and BRLSI volunteers are now working on developing a “Bright Sparks” workshop that will deal with electricity and magnetism and will tour the area during the spring half-term holiday.

It is hoped that by the end of the academic year the group will have developed at least four workshops comprising 50 different activities with simple, stand-alone instructions. These will be available for any STEM Ambassadors or similarly interested people to borrow and use.

To view photographs from the workshops, visit

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