The "Bug Buzzers" Activity
By Denise Webb (Guest Blogger)
Posted on 2020-05-14
One of my favorite activities to do during Family Science Nights and in the classroom lab is “Bug Buzzers.” It’s a great way to integrate a bit of engineering design into the phenomenon of how bugs make their buzzing sound. You may find this activity useful for distance learning or passing the time with your kids at home.
Begin with a discussion about insects and the sounds that they make. You can ask questions such as the following:
For information about common bugs and the sounds that they make, see the article “Top 6: Noisy Insects” at www.rockypest.com.au/general/top-6-noisy-insects. The article also contains good resources to consult for more background on this topic.
Distribute the following materials to each student:
Have students make a wing for their bugs using the index card. First, they should cut the index card in half (lengthwise), then they should shape one half into a wing. Students do not need the other half of the index card.
Tape one craft stick to the bottom half a wing piece. Be sure to center the craft stick and tape only the sides of the wing to the stick, as shown in the picture.
Wrap the string around one end of the stick several times. Make sure the string is trailing in the opposite direction of the wing, then tape the string to the stick.
Place an eraser cap on each end of the stick.
Stretch a rubber band across the erasers.
The diagram below provides an overview of all the steps.
After students have finished creating their bug buzzers, ask everyone to spread out so that they have plenty of space. Now have students give their bug buzzers a swing! They should hold the end of the string as they move their hand in the air in quick circular motions. They can safely swing their buzzers over their heads or in front of them.
After students have had time to test out their wings, ask them the following questions?
This activity is a good way to launch a discussion about sound. By the end of the lesson, students should understand that swinging the bug buzzer causes air to flow above and below the rubber band, which then causes the rubber band to vibrate. Changing the speed of the spin makes the bug buzzer produce sound at a different pitch. Explain that sound is a wave produced by vibrating air.
Close by having students brainstorm what else vibrates to make sound. Many students will guess musical instruments, and this answer can lead into a lesson on how instruments make their sound.
If you enjoyed this activity, you can purchase the full “Bug Buzzer” lesson plan, including references, safety notes, standards connections, and teacher background information, here. This excerpt from Staging Family Science Nights also includes Chapter 9 (an overview of the section and an introduction to the format used to present ideas for Family Science Night activities), Chapter 11 (background information for intermediate-level activities), and more!