Bundle 3: Communications

Tier 2, Part B: Wireless Dead Zones

Tier 1: How does WiFi work?


Students will continue with the investigation they began in Tier I of this bundle. Now that they have a sense of how the Wi-Fi signal strength can vary throughout the building, the next step is to begin to try to understand why.


The purpose of this project is for students to develop some understanding of radio waves using their experience with something they interact with on a day-to-day basis: Wi-Fi. Students should use their experience from Tier I of this bundle to help draw them into the investigation. Students will begin by brainstorming about different kinds of signals, and how to generate, send, and receive signals. This initial engagement activity should lead to a discussion about Wi-Fi and how they could possibly improve the wireless Internet signal in parts of the school. A potential end goal could include designing and engineering a solution to boost the Wi-Fi signal in their classroom. If access to a wireless router is not available, a projector, television, or other device that can be turned on and off with a remote control could be used as a substitute to investigate the behavior of waves and radio signals.


Big Questions:

  • How could we improve buildings to prevent “dead zones” ?
  • We know now what materials hamper wireless signals. Are there any materials that can amplify them?
  • What is a signal and how are signals generated, sent and received?
  • What are some examples of signals?
  • How can we impede or enhance a signal?
  • What common materials contribute to blockage or amplification of Wi-Fi signals?
  • How can we construct a device that will help amplify the wireless signal in our classroom or other places on the schoolyard?

Standards addressed:

 MS-PS4-2 Develop and use a model to describe that waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials.
 MS-PS4-3 Integrate qualitative scientific and technical information to support the claim that digitized signals are a more reliable way to encode and transmit information than analog signals.
MS-ETS1-1 Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
MS-ETS1-2 Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
MS-ETS1-3 Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
MS-ETS1-4 Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.

Tier in depth:

Considering how many of us have experienced a Wi-Fi ‘dead zone’ before, the students should have some reference from the Tier I activity that they can use to come up with ideas to answer the investigation questions (see Big Questions above). They should share these ideas as a class and then come up with an initial question for everyone to work off of later. The teacher and students should begin coming up with a list of necessary resources, as the students devise their investigative plan in groups of 2-4. Like other Tier II activities in this book, this investigation should be largely student-driven with less guidance from the teacher. Let students come up with their own questions and ideas about how to design and carry out their experiments, and engineering design. The Big Questions above are only there as potential questions that students might come up with. If something else comes up during their planning, be flexible and let them explore their curiosities.

Like most experiments, they should have a control to compare their variable cases to. Ensure the students have a proper data collection process as well as a place to log their data. The teacher may want to approve of the plan before the experiment begins. As a teacher, you should monitor the students’ progress and act as a source of guidance to help lead them to the answer without telling them. After running through the experiments and collecting data, students should analyze the data and draw conclusions, particularly those that students feel are relevant to society. Once all groups have finished, the teacher should ask the class questions concerning what further questions or experiments could be made as a result of this first experiment, and the teacher should encourage the students to do further investigations.

Student Resources:

  • Wifi routers/hotspots

  • Wireless device

  • Cardboard

  • Aluminum Foil

  • Mirrors

  • Additional as needed (Building Materials)

  • Experts: