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Topic: Hands on Activity (w. Internet) : Build An Organ. Make noise, learn math ...
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Paul Flavin

Posts: 21
Registered: 12/3/04
Hands on Activity (w. Internet) : Build An Organ. Make noise, learn math ...
Posted: Jul 10, 1998 8:25 AM
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Here’s a great ‘hands on’ learning activity that lets kids make
something, make a lot of noise, learn some math, and have something to
take home with them.

Have your kids make a pipe organ, you buy the hardware.

The pipe organ could be a large cathedral type organ which would
might cost a million dollars.

If that is to expensive, fifty drinking straws can be purchased for
fifty-nine cents, and the math and the physics is the same whether
the pipes are made of brass, gold, plastic, or paper. And each straw
can yield several pipes, so a packed classroom of kids can be supplied
rather cheaply, if you don’t want to go the cathedral route.

Placing a finger on one end of the straw and blowing across the top
of the other end creates a standing wave in the pipe and quick as a
whistle, you’re making music.

Cutting a second straw to make a shorter pipe and repeating the
steps above, you have a new pipe and new note.

The easiest way to create your organ is to duplicate the sounds of
a piano or organ that is known to be already in tune.

This can be done by trial and error, cutting as many straws as

Alternately, a non-destructive method can be used:

The straw can filled with water and held vertically with a finger
pressed against the bottom to hold the water in. Then let some water
leak out and blow across the top, and repeat these steps, repeatedly.
Each time you blow across the top of the straw, you will hear a new
note, if you have released some water each time ( increasing the
length of the straw that is ‘filled with air’ ).

Add and release water until you have the desired sound, then cut the
straw at the air / water boundary, keeping the top part as your
properly tuned pipe.

If you don’t have a piano in your classroom but you do have a
computer and an Internet connection you can dial up a piano on your
computer by going to the web page:

This allows you to play a piano on your computer so as you create
each pipe, each will be properly tuned, otherwise your music will end
up sounding sour.

First create pipes for the white keys on the piano.

Plan on making a lot of them.

Have the students measure the length of each pipe and plot the length
of the pipe on graph paper. The quickest and most elegant way to
create a graph is to lay the pipes together so they are all parallel
and touching and aligned along the bottom, and bingo, you have a
graph. ( Math doesn’t have to be hard. )

Hopefully, the physics on your planet is the same as it is on mine,
and perhaps a student will discover a relationship regarding the
lengths of the pipes, whose lengths were determined by a tone matching

Then refer back to the “Piano / Oscilloscope” web page and play the
note that corresponds to each pipe you have and record the frequency
of each of note ( which the program conveniently provides for you ).

Use your own ingenuity to have the kids play a tune for you, each
playing a single pipe.

This should be a fun and educational experience.

I hope you try it and fun with it.

If you’re brave enough to try it, let me know how it goes.


-- Paul Flavin

Developer of Java programs.
Writer of web pages.
Cutter of straws and creator of things that make noise.

“Imaging the Imagined : Modeling with Math and a keyboard”

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