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Quieter Cabin

Acoustics is the study of the properties of sound and how sound is transmitted through space. Engineers working on airplane design pay close attention to the acoustics of the airplane cabin in an effort to keep passengers as comfortable as possible. In this module, students develop, test, and modify designs for a quieter airplane cabin. Students develop a conceptual understanding of science ideas related to sound waves. Students apply these ideas during the engineering design process.

NGSS addressed by this module:
MS-ETS1-1   MS-ETS1-4   MS-PS4-1   MS-PS4-2   MS-LS1-8

Grade Band: 4-8

Download the Lessons

Entire Unit: Quieter Cabin
DAYS 1–10: Quieter Cabin Teacher Handbook Download

DAYS 1 & 2: How Sound Travels Away from an Airplane Engine
Students are introduced to the design problem of creating a quieter cabin for airplane passengers. Students engage in a series of investigations to figure out how airplane engines make sound and how the sound travels from the engine to the passengers' ears. Download

DAY 3: Shake, Rattle, and Roll (Optional Extension)
Students further explore the idea that energy can flow from one form to another as they continue to build their understanding of sound generation and transmission. As part of this extension, students examine sound waves created with simple electromagnetic tools, and create a very simple speaker using a paper plate. Download

DAYS 4 & 5: How Sound Travels through Cabin Walls
Students engage in a modeling activity and an investigation to determine how sound waves travel through solids. Students then test a variety of solids to determine which solids best transmit sound waves. Students design, test, and redesign a tin can telephone while considering the science ideas behind their design choices. Download

DAY 6: Sounds Passengers Are Most Sensitive To
Students participate in a variety of activities focusing on how humans receive sound input. Students figure out that humans hear certain pitches better than other pitches. Students revise their design criteria to include the idea that the airplane cabin only needs to block certain pitches. Download

DAYS 7, 8 & 9: Design a Quieter Cabin
Students develop and test prototype designs for a quieter airplane cabin. As they design their cabin, students integrate and apply their knowledge of sound gained from Days 1–6. Students engage in the iterative engineering design process as they work through the design constraints of a set list of materials to choose from, a budget of $10,000, and a weight limit. Download

DAY 10: Report It Out!
Students share their final products with the class. Student presentations include an explanation of the evolution of their product, three iterations of their design, and the average test results from each trial. Download

Download Additional Resources

Quieter Cabin Student Handbook

The materials created by this collaboration were taught by the authoring teachers in Puget Sound and Houston and in 2015, a second group of teachers taught the lessons and provided feedback to improve the modules. As part of a second iteration of the modules, the senior science editor at Teaching Channel worked with Achieve to integrate the teachers’ feedback while more closely aligning the modules to The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) call for significant shifts in the way science is taught and learned. In 2016, a panel of science experts from around the country convened for a two day training with Achieve to learn how to incorporate the Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products (EQuiP) Rubric for Science. As part of the iterative process of improvement, the expert reviewers then completed an EQuIP Rubric for each module. Teaching Channel's senior science editor combined the reviewers input to create a third iteration of the modules that promotes a close alignment to standards while honoring the original expertise of the authoring teachers and engineers.

Partners at the Institute for Science and Math Education at the University of Washington and Educate Texas were instrumental in teacher recruitment and the necessary training for this initiative.