Glenbrook South Year-End Projects

The Physics of Musical Instruments



One of the objectives of the year-end project is to demonstrate the ability to cooperate/collaborate with others in order to sustain a challenging project which is sustained over a lengthy period of time. There are a number of means by which you and your group can demonstrate this ability to collaborate. The following are offered as suggestions.

  1. Each Physics 163 project group will be required to periodically mage log entries into a central database used by all students who are conducting the same project. Other project groups who are engaged in the same study - the study of the Physics of Musical Instruments - will be able to view your group's ideas, focus of study, and experimental design. Likewise, you will be able to view other groups ideas and learn from their efforts. You will be asked to make database entries on at least three occasions:
    1. You will make your first database entry after the initial stages of the literature search. This submission should involve one paragraph in which you indicate the following:
      1. Describe any useful resources which you have found (Web sites, electronic sources, journals, books, etc.)
      2. Discuss the direction which your group seems to be heading with the project; if you are beginning to narrow your focus (e.g., from the Physics of Musical Instruments to the Physics of Stringed Instruments or the Physics of Wind Chimes), then discuss this process.
      3. Mention any problems which you are having or any questions which you have; perhaps other students could provide some assistance for you.
    2. You will make your second database entry after the submission of the rough draft of your literature search. This submission should involve one paragraph in which you indicate the following:
      1. Discuss any ideas which you currently have for conducting an experiment; in your discussion, comment on any uncertainties which you have or any other questions which others might be able to respond to.
      2. Mention any problems which you are having or any questions which you have; perhaps other students could provide some assistance for you.
    3. You will make your third database entry after the submission of your project proposal. This submission should involve a couple of paragraphs in which you indicate the following:
      1. Describe your purpose (to study the effect of ____ on _____ ...).
      2. Discuss the equipment which you will use and how you will collect your data.
      3. Discuss your hypothesis.
      4. Mention any problems which you are having or any questions which you have; perhaps other students could provide some assistance for you.


  2. Each Physics 163 project group will use their home e-mail account (or if not available, one provided by their own teacher) for the duration of the project. Your e-mail account can be used to send and receive communications from scientists whose addresses you locate on the World Wide Web. Such correspondence should be intelligent, cordial, and respectful. When asking a question of a scientist, you should:
    1. introduce yourself (e.g., write "My name is Jane Doe and I am a physics student at a suburban Chicago high school.") and tell what you are doing (e.g., "I am conducting a lengthy year-end project on the Physics of ...").
    2. be as specific as possible so that the scientist is able to respond succinctly and still answer your question. As a non-example, do not merely write something like "I am studying the physics of ...; do you have any information which will help me." Instead, write "I am focusing a part of my study on the variables effecting the sounds produced by drums and similar instruments; I am currently searching for information on the physical materials used in the construction of drums. Do you know of any useful resources - books, internet sites, etc.?"
    3. be respectful of the scientist's time, allowing her/him an opportunity to decline the return correspondence (e.g., write "If your time does not allow you to respond to my question, then I would totally understand...").
    4. avoid asking questions which you could answer yourself by doing simple literature research.

      (NOTE: If you do not have access to a home e-mail account, then your teacher may be able to grant you access through the school.)


  3. Your e-mail account can be used to join the Auditory listserve. By subscribing to this listserve, your group's e-mail address will be added to amailing list. You become a subscriber (or member) of an extensive network of scientists (or students or merely enthusiasts) who have an interest in acoustic topics. The Auditory listserve is "for researchers interested in organizatonal aspects of auditory perception." Subscribers of the listserve send e-mail to a central address and all members of the mailling list receive that e-mail. Subscribers can read the e-mail and subsequently respond. Typically, if a question is sent to listserve subscribers by e-mail, as many as five or ten other members might respond with an answer to the question. As of this writing (4/14/98), there were over 150 posted messages during the 1998 year on many topics relevant to your topic. This is an excellent opportunity to correspond with scientists, researchers and professors whose expertise or interest is in the field of acoustics. You may join the Auditory listserve by filling out a short form at


  4. There are several pages on the World Wide Web that invite students to ask a scientist. By e-mailing an intelligent question, you are likely to receive an intelligent answer. A few such addresses include:
  5. You may collaborate with a cooperating scientist through the Electronic Emissary Project at the University of Texas-Austin. Your first step should be to visit the site and become informed about the project (see "Electronic Emissary Project Overview"). Then view the database of experts in hopes of finding an expert in your field of study (see "Search Database of Experts/Submit Match Request"). If you find an expert in your field of study and are interested in becoming involved, then fill out and submit the form at the site. You will be contacted and arrangements will be made to link you up with the expert. Notify your teacher of your actions so that he/she is aware of what is happening. Once connected with the expert, you can subsequently ask questions and receive prompt answers. The Emissary Project does require that you send and receive at least three mail messages a week. This involves a strong commitment! Yet once you identify an area of interest, you will likely benefit greatly from such a commitment.


  6. Our school has already registered our project with the Global School Network's Internet Project Registry. By registering with GSN, we have become listed as a school conducting research on the physics of such topics as waves, sound, music, musical instruments, etc. Your group can search on-line to see if there are any other high school students conducting similar projects. If you are fortunate enough to find such a group of students, you are welcome to collaborate with them on your project. You may find that you can offer each other much assistance in finding information, sharing experimental data, and sharing successes and failures. It is definitely worth a try.


  7. Another means of identifying scientists and experts with whom you can collaborate is through the Acoustics FAQ site. The FAQ allows you to search a database of frequently-asked questions on acoustics and view answers to those questions. And even more useful, you can ask your own question and possibly receive a suitable answer.


Return to:

The Physics of Musical Instruments Project

Project Home Page

Music Project

Musics Links

Basic Research Qs

Collabor'n Ideas

The Lab Report

Project Pitfalls

Scoring Rubrics

Project Timeline

Other GBS Resources

GBS Physics Page

Physics 163 Page

Physics Projects Home Page

The Refrigerator

The Physics Classroom

Multimedia Physics Studios

The GBS Physics staff invite you to send electronic mail:

Tom Henderson

Howard Jenewein

John Lewis

Neil Schmidgall

Dave Smith

Suzanne Webb

Brian Wegley

Questions and comments can be sent to Tom Henderson.

This page last updated on 4/16/98.