Boston Children's Museum
308 Congress Street, Boston, MA 02210
Engineering challenges like this one help children develop problem solving, observation and teamwork skills and much more. In this challenge, your students will learn about properties of different materials and the transmission of sound as they work to develop a multi-line phone system with simple materials.
This is a follow-up to the String Telephones activity – try that activity first if you have not yet done so.
If you have younger children, you might choose to poke holes in the cups ahead of time. If you are using metal cans, you should do this despite the age of your students and make sure that there are no jagged edges.
Refer to your last experience in the String Telephones activity. How many children could listen in to the conversation at once? Is it possible to make a telephone that has 3 lines?
Challenge your children to create their own 3-way telephone system.
After 10–15 minutes of activity, if every team has made and tested at least one phone system, stop your students and bring them together to share their observations with each other. This discussion should last no more than a few minutes. Did anyone have a successful 3-way call? Have them demonstrate the use of their phones. Is there more than one solution? Are there any ideas any teams have that they haven’t tried yet?
Send them back to experiment more.