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In this lab activity for Grades 5-9, students work in teams to construct a simple telegraph using a battery, wires, and a bulb. By turning the switch on and off, learners "send" messages using International Morse Code. Students then repeat the process sending identical messages on cell phones. Which group can send intelligible messages most quickly? What is the time difference between the fastest Morse Code operator and the slowest texter? The driving question of the lesson: How has society been impacted by the contributions of early pioneers in electromagnetism and its applications?

This instructional module includes goals/objectives, Power Point introduction, problem sets, student guides, recommended reading, illustrated procedures, worksheets, and background information about the engineering connections. This resource is part of TryEngineering.org, a website maintained by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
Editor's Note: This lab activity does not mimic the actual design of the original Morse device, which used electric current to move an electromagnet attached to the telegraph key device. The purpose of the lesson is to give a fun and simple introduction to signal communications -- the Power Point presentation is especially engaging. Electromagnetism kits for two-station telegraph communication systems are available online for $25-35 per student group. See Related Materials for links to historical background on Samuel Morse and interactive animations of electromagnetic induction.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education Practices
- Active Learning
Electricity & Magnetism
- DC Circuits
= Instruments
General Physics
- Equipment
= Electronic Equipment
Other Sciences
- Engineering
- Middle School
- High School
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Laboratory
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Student Guide
- Audio/Visual
= Illustration
= Photograph
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- Laboratory
- Assessment
- New teachers
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application/pdf
application/ms-powerpoint
application/ms-word
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© 2006 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Keywords:
Samuel Morse, applied physics, electronics, engineering activity, engineering labs, engineering lessons, signal processing
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created July 27, 2012 by Gnana Subramaniam
Record Updated:
February 22, 2013 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
December 4, 2010

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

3. The Nature of Technology

3C. Issues in Technology
  • 6-8: 3C/M4. Technology is largely responsible for the great revolutions in agriculture, manufacturing, sanitation and medicine, warfare, transportation, information processing, and communications that have radically changed how people live and work.

4. The Physical Setting

4G. Forces of Nature
  • 6-8: 4G/M4. Electrical circuits require a complete loop through which an electrical current can pass.
  • 9-12: 4G/H5c. The interplay of electric and magnetic forces is the basis for many modern technologies, including electric motors, generators, and devices that produce or receive electromagnetic waves.

8. The Designed World

8D. Communication
  • 6-8: 8D/M1. Errors can occur in coding, transmitting, or decoding information, and some means of checking for accuracy is needed. Repeating the message is a frequently used method.
  • 6-8: 8D/M2. Information can be carried by many media, including sound, light, and objects. In the 1900s, the ability to code information as electric currents in wires, electromagnetic waves in space, and light in glass fibers has made communication millions of times faster than mail or sound.

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.


Topic: Electricity and Electrical Energy
Unit Title: Electricity: A Historical Perspective

In this lab activity for Grades 5-9, students work in teams to construct a simple telegraph using a battery, wires, and a bulb. By turning the switch on and off, learners "send" messages using International Morse Code. Students then repeat the process sending identical messages on cell phones. Which group can send intelligible messages most quickly?  Editor's Note: This lab activity does not mimic the actual design of the original Morse device, which used electric current to move an electromagnet attached to the key device. Its purpose is to give a simple introduction to signal communications.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
(Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 2006), WWW Document, (http://www.tryengineering.org/lesson_detail.php?lesson=11).
AJP/PRST-PER
TryEngineering: Electric Messages: Then and Now (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 2006), <http://www.tryengineering.org/lesson_detail.php?lesson=11>.
APA Format
TryEngineering: Electric Messages: Then and Now. (2010, December 4). Retrieved July 29, 2014, from Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers: http://www.tryengineering.org/lesson_detail.php?lesson=11
Chicago Format
International Business Machines. TryEngineering: Electric Messages: Then and Now. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, December 4, 2010. http://www.tryengineering.org/lesson_detail.php?lesson=11 (accessed 29 July 2014).
MLA Format
TryEngineering: Electric Messages: Then and Now. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 2006. 4 Dec. 2010. International Business Machines. 29 July 2014 <http://www.tryengineering.org/lesson_detail.php?lesson=11>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {TryEngineering: Electric Messages: Then and Now}, Publisher = {Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers}, Volume = {2014}, Number = {29 July 2014}, Month = {December 4, 2010}, Year = {2006} }
Refer Export Format

%T TryEngineering: Electric Messages: Then and Now
%D December 4, 2010
%I Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
%U http://www.tryengineering.org/lesson_detail.php?lesson=11
%O application/pdf

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D December 4, 2010
%T TryEngineering: Electric Messages: Then and Now
%I Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
%V 2014
%N 29 July 2014
%8 December 4, 2010
%9 application/pdf
%U http://www.tryengineering.org/lesson_detail.php?lesson=11


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Is Supplemented By Mag Lab U: Electromagnetic Induction

Interactive animation: induce a current by dragging a bar magnet back and forth inside coiled wires. Set the coil to 5, 10, or 15 turns and watch the voltmeter changes. (Includes text tutorial.)

relation by Caroline Hall
Same topic as History of Morse Telegraph

Brief historical account of the 1836 version of the Morse Telegraph Key device with explanation of how it works.

relation by Caroline Hall

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