Summer Brain Games

Experiment: Sound Design

Engineers and designers think about how to control loud sounds when they design buildings, public transportation routes and other structures in Chicago. Even in cities with sounds all around, people need spaces where they can find peace and quiet. Can you design something that softens sound? 

Instrucciones en Español


Phone or wireless speaker
Shoebox or large, plastic bin with a lid
Pencil or pen
A variety of materials like: fabric, aluminum foil, paper, cardboard, bubble wrap, newspaper, towels, foam, pipe cleaners, craft supplies


  1. Gather your materials and find a place to work. You'll want a flat surface in a quiet area.
  2. Play music or a sound through your phone or speaker. Put the phone or speaker into the box and close the lid.
  3. Write down your observations about how the sound changes. What do you notice?
  4. Remove the phone from the box. Use one of the craft materials to create a barrier to stop the sound from escaping the box.
  5. Test your design by putting the phone or speaker back into the box and closing the lid. How did the sound change? Did it get louder? Quieter? Write down your observations.
  6. Modify your design. Try a different type of soundproofing material, change the way you're using material, or experiment with several kinds of material.
  7. Test each design and write down your observations. How did the sound change with a new design? What design worked best? What materials were more soundproof?

What’s Happening?

Sound is a vibration. It’s created when something like your vocal cords, a speaker or a car tire on a road vibrate. This causes the materials and air around it to vibrate. Eventually, those vibrations reach your ear and you hear a sound. 

Sound can travel through air, liquids and even through solid materials like walls. The further away from the source of a sound you are, the quieter the sound is because the vibrations are spread out over a greater distance. This causes fewer vibrations to hit your ear. Some materials can stop sound reaching your ears by bouncing the vibrations away from you. Other materials can stop sound from reaching your ears by absorbing the vibrations. 


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