How to make a wave machine

If you are planning projects for your science fairs, there is a phenomenon that is quite interesting to explain, and it has to do with wave propagation. Next, we'll take a look at how to make a wave machineThis is a simple and fun experiment to visualise the propagation of these and demonstrate one of the most common physical effects on the planet.

wave machine


- Popsicles.

- Thin plastic or thick paper tape.

- Glue.

How to make our wave machine

The process of creating the wave machine is very simple. The first thing we are going to do, is to cut a thin plastic tape about 60 or 80 cm long or whatever size we want and place it on a table.

wave machine

Then, we glue ice-cream sticks all at the same height, i.e. in the centre of each stick on the plastic tape with a distance of 0.5 to 1.5 cm between them, leaving a distance between the beginning of the tape and the first ice-cream stick of about 8 cm, and similarly, with the last ice-cream stick and the other end of the tape.

Once we have done this, we will have our wave machine ready, it only remains to place it in the air (held by two people or holding the tape in a stable and safe place) and we will be ready to carry out our experiment and visualise how the waves propagate.

Conducting the test

To start the experiment, we hold the plastic tape so that it is taut, then we hold one of the ice-cream sticks and make a torque movement on one of them. We release the stick and observe how the movement propagates along the tape and how it returns to the stick where we made the movement.

wave machine

Operation of the wave machine

The ice-cream sticks are held together by a force (the plastic tape). When we make a movement, this is projected onto all the sticks in the form of a wave, as they are interconnected by the same force. When we reach the end of the sticks, the force returns to its origin, generating a reverse wave. This type of phenomenon is known as incident waves and reflected waves.

7 thoughts on “Cómo hacer una máquina de ondas”

    1. Roberto Menjívar

      It would be to apply the basic notion of speed:
      You identify where the disturbance is at a given time and then establish how long it takes it to travel a distance between two arbitrary points. You measure the separation between the two points and the quotient of this distance and the timed time will tell you how fast the wave propagates along the tape.
      Incidentally, it is the elastic property of the tape as it tries to return the sticks to their original equilibrium position that allows the wave to exist.

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