Radio Reception and Transmission

This lesson explores the electronics behind radio, and its impact on society. Students work in teams to build and test a radio receiver and optional transmitter from either a snap or soldering kit (depending on level and age).

  • Learn about engineering design and redesign.
  • Learn about circuits and computers.
  • Learn about radio receivers and transmitters.
  • Learn about teamwork and problem solving.

Age Levels: 8-18

(Note: This lesson may be shared where younger students build the radio receiver, and partner with older students who build the radio transmitter.)

Build Materials

Required Materials

  • 25 or 30 watt soldering unit (all soldering should be under supervision of teacher)
  • Younger Student Team Receiver Materials:

Materials

  • Receivers and transmitters built from kit.

Process

  • Students test their receivers and transmitters by sending and receiving a broadcast.

Design Challenge

You are part of a team of engineers given the challenge of creating a working FM radio receiver and transmitter and then sending and receiving your own broadcast! You’ll work as a team and divide up the work and have a system for keeping track of parts.

Criteria

  • Receiver and transmitter must send and receive a broadcast.
  • Develop a system for keeping track of parts.

Constraints

  • Use only the materials provided.

In some areas, operating even a very short range FM transmitter without a license may conflict with applicable laws and/or regulations. Check the rules for your area – often schools are exempt.

  1. Break class into teams of 3-4.
    Consider if your students will be working on the receiver only, or building both a receiver and transmitter. The older students could partner with younger students at your school. The younger students build the receivers and older students build the transmitters. Perhaps present the work of both at a parent night or science fair event.
  2. Hand out the Radio Reception and Transmission worksheet, as well as some sheets of paper for sketching designs.
  3. Discuss the topics in the Background Concepts Section. To introduce the lesson, consider asking the students how radio transmission is possible. Ask them to consider what components might be inside a radio receiver and how they work. Prompt students to consider radio transmission as well. Visit Wikipedia Radio (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio) to learn about the history and technology behind radio transmission and reception.
  4. Review the Engineering Design Process, Design Challenge, Criteria, Constraints and Materials.
  5. Provide each team with their materials.
  6. Explain that students must create a working FM radio receiver and transmitter and then send and receive a broadcast. Students must follow the detailed instructions within their kit to create their team’s radio. If they are building the advanced kit that requires soldering, be sure to supervise.
  7. Announce the amount of time they have to design and build (1 hour recommended).
  8. Use a timer or an on-line stopwatch (count down feature) to ensure you keep on time. (www.online-stopwatch.com/full-screen-stopwatch). Give students regular “time checks” so they stay on task. If they are struggling, ask questions that will lead them to a solution quicker.
  9. Students meet and develop a plan to create their receiver and transmitter.
  10. Teams build their receivers and transmitters.
  11. Students test their receivers and transmitters by demonstrating how they send and receive a broadcast.
  12. As a class, discuss the student reflection questions.
  13. For more content on the topic, see the “Digging Deeper” section.

Student Reflection (engineering notebook)

  1. What challenges did you have, if any, in constructing your radio? How did you resolve any challenges you encountered?
  2. Was your radio transmitter able to send FM transmissions? If not, what troubleshooting steps did you take to resolve the problem?
  3. Was your radio receiver able to receive FM transmissions? If not, what troubleshooting steps did you take to resolve the problem?
  4. Do you think that this activity was more rewarding to do as a team, or would you have preferred to work alone on it? Why?
  5. Were you surprised to see how complex the inner workings of a radio could be? Why or why not?
  6. What do you think engineers might do to improve how a radio works in the future? What would you recommend?

Time Modification

The lesson can be done in as little as 1 class period for older students. However, to help students from feeling rushed and to ensure student success (especially for younger students), split the lesson into two periods giving students more time to brainstorm, test ideas and finalize their design. Conduct the testing and debrief in the next class period.

Divide into teams
Review the challenge and criteria constraints
Brainstorm possible solutions (sketch while you brainstorm!)
Choose best solution and build a prototype
Test then redesign until solution is optimized
Reflect as a team and debrief as a class

What is a Simple Circuit?

A simple circuit consists of three minimum elements that are required to complete a functioning electric circuit: a source of electricity (battery), a path or conductor on which electricity flows (wire) and an electrical resistor (lamp) which is any device that requires electricity to operate. The illustration below shows a simple circuit containing, one battery, two wires, a switch, and a bulb. The flow of electricity is from the high potential (+) terminal of the battery through the bulb (lighting it up), and back to the negative (-) terminal, in a continual flow when the switch is in the on position so current can flow

Schematic Diagram of a Simple Circuit

The following is a schematic diagram of the simple circuit showing the electronic symbols for the battery, switch, and bulb.

 

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Internet Connections

Recommended Reading

  • Inventing the Radio (Breakthrough Inventions) (ISBN: 978-0778728399)
  • Radio Tubes and Boxes of the 1920’s (ISBN: 978-1886606135)
  • Wireless: From Marconi’s Black-Box to the Audion (Transformations: Studies in the History of Science and Technology) (ISBN: 978-0262514194)

Writing Activity

Write an essay or a paragraph that examines who invented radio — there is much controversy on this topic!

Alignment to Curriculum Frameworks

Note: Lesson plans in this series are aligned to one or more of the following sets of standards:

National Science Education Standards Grades K-4 (ages 4-9)

CONTENT STANDARD A: Science as Inquiry

As a result of activities, all students should develop

  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
  • Understanding about scientific inquiry

CONTENT STANDARD B: Physical Science

As a result of the activities, all students should develop an understanding of

  • Properties of objects and materials
  • Light, heat, electricity, and magnetism

CONTENT STANDARD E: Science and Technology

As a result of activities, all students should develop

  • Abilities of technological design
  • Understanding about science and technology

CONTENT STANDARD F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

As a result of activities, all students should develop understanding of

  • Science and technology in local challenges

CONTENT STANDARD G: History and Nature of Science

As a result of activities, all students should develop understanding of

  • Science as a human endeavor

National Science Education Standards Grades 5-8 (ages 10-14)

CONTENT STANDARD A: Science as Inquiry

As a result of activities, all students should develop

  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
  • Understandings about scientific inquiry

CONTENT STANDARD B: Physical Science

As a result of their activities, all students should develop an understanding of

  • Transfer of energy

CONTENT STANDARD E: Science and Technology

As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop

  • Abilities of technological design
  • Understandings about science and technology

CONTENT STANDARD F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

As a result of activities, all students should develop understanding of

  • Science and technology in society

National Science Education Standards Grades 5-8 (ages 10-14)

CONTENT STANDARD G: History and Nature of Science

As a result of activities, all students should develop understanding of

  • Science as a human endeavor
  • Nature of science
  • History of science

National Science Education Standards Grades 9-12 (ages 14-18)

CONTENT STANDARD A: Science as Inquiry

As a result of activities, all students should develop

  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry

CONTENT STANDARD E: Science and Technology

As a result of activities, all students should develop

  • Abilities of technological design
  • Understandings about science and technology

CONTENT STANDARD F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

As a result of activities, all students should develop understanding of

  • Science and technology in local, national, and global challenges

CONTENT STANDARD G: History and Nature of Science

As a result of activities, all students should develop understanding of

  • Science as a human endeavor
  • Nature of scientific knowledge
  • Historical perspectives

Next Generation Science Standards Grades 3-5 (Ages 8-11)

Energy         

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

  • 4-PS3-4. Apply scientific ideas to design, test, and refine a device that converts energy from one form to another.

Engineering Design

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

  • 3-5-ETS1-1.Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
  • 3-5-ETS1-2.Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • 3-5-ETS1-3.Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.

Next Generation Science Standards Grades 6-8 (Ages 11-14)

Engineering Design

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

  • MS-ETS1-2 Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

Next Generation Science Standards Grades 9-12 (Ages 14-18)

Waves and their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

  • HS-PS4-5. Communicate technical information about how some technological devices use the principles of wave behavior and wave interactions with matter to transmit and capture information and energy.

Standards for Technological Literacy – All Ages

The Nature of Technology

  • Standard 1: Students will develop an understanding of the characteristics and scope of technology.
  • Standard 2: Students will develop an understanding of the core concepts of technology.

Technology and Society

  • Standard 4: Students will develop an understanding of the cultural, social, economic, and political effects of technology.
  • Standard 7: Students will develop an understanding of the influence of technology on history.

Design

  • Standard 8: Students will develop an understanding of the attributes of design.
  • Standard 9: Students will develop an understanding of engineering design.
  • Standard 10: Students will develop an understanding of the role of troubleshooting, research and development, invention and innovation, and experimentation in problem solving.

Abilities for a Technological World

  • Standard 12: Students will develop abilities to use and maintain technological products and systems.

The Designed World

Standard 17: Students will develop an understanding of and be able to select and use information and communication technologies.

Engineering Teamwork and Planning

You are part of a team of engineers given the challenge of creating a working FM radio receiver and transmitter and then sending and receiving your own broadcast!  You’ll work as a team and divide up the work and have a system for keeping track of parts.

Research Phase

Read the materials provided to you by your teacher. If you have access to the internet ahead of the activity, visit some of the suggested websites to get a feel for the history of radio and its impact on global society.

Building Phase

Follow the detailed instructions within your kit to create your team’s radio.  If you are building the advanced kit that requires soldering, be sure to do this only under the supervision of your teacher.

Reflection

Complete the reflection questions below:

  1. What challenges did you have, if any, in constructing your radio? How did you resolve any challenges you encountered?

 

 

 

 

  1. Was your radio transmitter able to send FM transmissions? If not, what troubleshooting steps did you take to resolve the problem?

 

 

 

 

  1. Was your radio receiver able to receive FM transmissions? If not, what troubleshooting steps did you take to resolve the problem?

 

 

 

 

  1. Do you think that this activity was more rewarding to do as a team, or would you have preferred to work alone on it? Why?

 

 

 

 

  1. Were you surprised to see how complex the inner workings of a radio could be? Why or why not?

 

 

 

 

  1. What do you think engineers might do to improve how a radio works in the future? What would you recommend?

 

 

 

Lesson Plan Translation

Additional Translation Resources

Downloadable Student Certificate of Completion