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Making Waves with Radio

Project overview

logo for the making waves project

Wireless radio communications, such as Wi-Fi, transmit public and private data from one device to another, including cell phones, computers, medical equipment, satellites, space rockets, and air traffic control. Despite their critical role and prevalence, many people are unfamiliar with radio waves, how they are generated and interact with their surroundings, and why they are the basis of modern communication and navigation. Making Waves with Radio has created a series of hands-on activities and professional resources to assist educators in presenting these topics to diverse audiences.


What is Radio?

The Making Waves with Radio Content Training Video is a great resource to learn about the 5 Big Ideas for radio technologies. The video will review questions including: What are radio waves and how do manipulate them to communicate? How did radio communications start, and where has the technology taken us? How can we all take part in the development and use of radio technologies in the future?

There is also a Spanish version of the video available:


Making Waves with Radio resources from the NISE Network

NISE Network museum partners have created several hands-on activities for the Making Waves with Radio project. Each activity includes a training video and materials in Spanish. Two of the activities also use a mobile app to assist learners. This downloadable kit of hands-on activities will help learners explore the phenomena, uses, and societal impact of radio technologies.

All resources:

  • Two gallon-sized paint cans–one made out of clear plastic and the other metal– are side by side on a table. Behind them, two youths are seated at the table. Together they place a handheld, hand crank radio with a long antenna into the plastic paint can.

    Radio Silence — How does the radio signal sent from a station’s transmitter miles away get to your device? Which materials work best at blocking the radio waves? Learners explore interference and how radio waves can be blocked using different containers and wrapping materials.


  • While sitting at a table, one child points a small transmitter at a vacuum-seal container that has a key finder inside, and another child holds a smartphone up to the other side of the container.

    Messages from Space   Are sound waves and radio waves different? Learners explore the differences between radio and sound waves by comparing the functions of a remote key finder inside a closed container with air and under a vacuum. To help track sound levels over time, the Sound Dectector app is available on Android devices. The Sound Detector app was created with a simple interface for easy use and includes English and Spanish. 


  • An adult and a child holds a metal baking sheet above the antennae of a Wi-Fi router on a block of wood, placed on a table. Another child holds a shell of tinfoil around a block of wood placed apart from the first block.

    Wi-Fi Detective    Why did I lose my Wi-Fi signal? Learners experiment with different materials to interact with the radio waves coming from a household Wi-Fi router. This activity uses the Wi-Fi Detector app on Android devices to measure the Wi-Fi signal strength over time. Learners can track the Wi-Fi signal through audio output as they place materials in between and around the Wi-Fi router. The Wi-Fi Detector app was created with a simple interface for easy use and includes English and Spanish.



  • Two children are seated at a table spread with large cards that depict writing and various radio technologies. Both children are holding a card in each hand and smiling as they read the cards.

    You Decide   Learners are given both people and technology cards. Each technology card is marked with a symbol to indicate whether the featured radio technology represents near future possibility, far future possibility, or an idea way beyond current science. Cards are intended to inspire curiosity about the science of radio, increase thoughtfulness around the role of radio in our everyday lives, and spur imagination.



  • An adult and child, both smiling, sit close together at a table as the child points to an image on the Wavetown illustration.

    I Spy Radio   Young learners use challenge cards to find examples of radio technologies in Wavetown, a colorful large print illustration of radio devices present in our everyday lives. Numbers and a legend on the illustration provide facilitation support.


Making Waves with Radio I Spy training video showing faciltator at a table






Project Partners

The project is led by BSCS Science Learning in Colorado Springs, CO

Project team members and advisors include:

  • Children's Creativity Museum, San Francisco, CA
  • Sciencenter, Ithaca, NY
  • Museum of Life and Science, Durham, NC
  • Emily Maletz Graphic Design, Portland, OR
  • Swift Creek Media, Raleigh, NC
  • Yellow Cow Consulting, San Francisco, CA


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number DRL 2053160. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the National Science Foundation.