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Becky McCoy

Lesson Title: Standing Waves & Doppler Effect Timing: 60 Minutes

Target Audience:
11th and 12th grade Physics course

Students Will Be Able To:
• Define a standing wave.
• Identify properties of a standing wave.
• Explain differences between light and sound waves.

The Teacher Will Be Able To:

• Identify and correct lingering misconceptions of light waves.
• Prepare students for Ray v. Wave Battle.
• Give students opportunities to understand standing waves conceptually.

Standards Assessed: New York State, The Physical Setting

4.3 iii. identify nodes and antinodes in standing waves
4.3 vi. predict the superposition of two waves interfering constructively and
destructively (indicating nodes, antinodes, and standing waves)

Misconception(s) Addressed:
• Standing waves have no energy or motion.
• Light is one or the other--a particle or a wave--only.
• Light can be a particle at one point in time and a wave at another point in time.
• Particles can't have wave properties.
• Waves can't have particle properties.
• Pitch is related to intensity.

Prior Knowledge: Previous class discussions on wave superposition and wave unit.

Aim: Explore properties of standing waves and the Doppler effect.

Concept Map Vocabulary:

• Standing Wave • Destructive Interference
• Node • Beat
• Superposition • Doppler Effect
• Interference

Necessary Preparation:

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• Something to watch YouTube videos

• 12 to 15 feet of 1/8" nylon cord
• 1 foot of 1/8" nylon cord
• Electric drill and chuck key
• 1 20-penny bent nail
• #2 barrel swivels (found in the fishing section of sporting goods)

• Assemble standing wave demonstration:
o Prior to the demonstration, you will need to bend a 20-penny nail to a right angle.
o Attach a swivel to each end of the nylon cord.
o Tie the 1-foot piece of cord to one of the swivel holders. This is the piece of cord that a
student will hold during the demonstration.
o Slide the bent nail through the eye of the other swivel.
o The nail end should be put into the drill bit fitting and tightened securely with the chuck
o To ensure the safety of your students, it is imperative that the cord does not break during
the demonstration. Be sure to test it before you present it to your students.
• Have computer/projection set up for the start of class

QuickTimeª and a
TIFF (Uncompressed) decompressor
are needed to see this picture.
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Lesson Plan

Aim: Explore properties of standing waves and the Doppler effect.

Physics Push-Up: Standing Wave Videos (7 minutes)

Have students watch clips of the Double Dutch, Surfing, Standing Wave on a string, and Laboratory
Standing Wave Videos and write what each video tells them about standing waves – to be collected.
• Double Dutch:
• Standing Wave on a String:
• Laboratory Standing Wave:

Activity: Standing Wave & Doppler Effect Demonstrations (30 minutes)

• 12 to 15 feet of 1/8" nylon cord
• 1 foot of 1/8" nylon cord
• Electric drill and chuck key
• 1 20-penny bent nail
• #2 barrel swivels (found in the fishing section of sporting goods)


“Yesterday we talked about wave interference and what happens when two waves cancel each other out. They
create a standing wave.”

What are some determining markers of a standing wave? Node, antinode, crest, etc.

Begin by having several students jump rope and discuss how this is one ½ wavelength and the next
demonstration will show multiple ½ wavelengths.

Ask a student to hold one end of the activity demonstration cord. Plug in the drill and the demonstration begins.
The less tension you apply, the more waves will appear. You can also vary the speed and reverse the direction of
the drill to get different wave effects. Experiment and have fun!

Questions to Ask:
• The length of the wave is measured as the distance from wave crest to wave crest.
What happens to the length of the wave when the drill speeds up, i.e., when more energy is
added? (The wavelength shortens.)
• What occurs to the wavelength when the drill is slowed? (The wavelength
• When there’s one standing wave on the length of the rope, what is the wavelength?
(1/2λ )
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• When there’s two standing waves? (1λ )

• Three/four standing waves? (1/5λ and 2λ )

“Most times, standing waves are useful – as in sound waves, which we’ll discuss next week. However, they can
also be dangerous when not prevented in structural engineering.”

Ask students if they have heard of the Tacoma Bridge. If so, ask them to explain what happened.

Watch Tacoma Bridge Video.

As they’re watching, explain that the wind had such a frequency that it matched the natural frequency of the
bridge – constructive interference!

Use the ripple tank to demonstrate what happens when the wave source moves.

“This is like a siren moving towards and then away from you. What happens? What does it sound like?”

Draw a moving sound source on the board: NOTE: make sure the dot (source) is in the middle of the sound
waves vertically and only showing Doppler Effect horizontally.


Point out that the time is longer and shorter after and before the source. This means longer and shorter frequency
a.k.a. lower and higher picture.

Demonstration: Have 3 -5 student volunteers. Have them form a straight line and walk towards you, giving you a
high five as they walk by. This demonstrates you experiencing a regular frequency (hearing a certain pitch).
Then as the students walk by, walk past them in the opposite direction. You perceive that the sound waves are
moving faster, but really you are moving in the opposite direction, so it is relative motion. Finally, as the student
approach you, back up, so perceive a slower frequency.

Related Videos:
• Doppler Effect Short:
• Big Bang Doppler Effect 1:
• Big Bang Doppler Effect 2:

Is Sheldon’s costume correct? From the point of view of the diagram above, it is not. However, if you were to
look at the diagram of a source coming towards you, it would be!
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Activity Summary:
Standing waves are a phenomena we usually only deal with when teaching sound, but it is worth
mentioning during this unit in order to help students understand more about destructive interference of
waves. Use the video Standing vs. Traveling Waves ( to
show the difference between standing and traveling transverse and longitudinal waves.

As an early preview for the next unit on sound, show this video of a Chladni Plate
(, which makes the nodes and beats of sound waves
very clear!

Doppler Effect
• Examples of:
• Explanation:

Homework: n/a

Exit Strategy:
Finish KWL Chart. Hand in notes from Physics Push-Up.

Extension Activity:
Watch videos over again and analyze them or do Wolfram Demonstration “The Doppler Effect”:

• Physics Push-Up responses
• Teacher evaluation of student discussion throughout class

Standing Wave Demonstration:
Double Dutch:
Standing Wave on a String:
Laboratory Standing Wave:
Wolfram Demonstration:
Big Bang Doppler Effect 1:
Big Bang Doppler Effect 2:
Doppler Effect Demonstrations:
Doppler Effect Short:
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Notes & Adaptations: