Celebrate National Karaoke Week by taking the electret microphone to the next level!
- Karaoke machine or smartphone
- Flashlight or rope lights
- Upcycled items (cardboard, soda bottles, ribbon etc.)
- Plan a karaoke party by building a stage using boxes, pillows or other materials from around the house.
- Design the stage lighting using flashlights or string lights.
- Think of a song you enjoy singing, or better yet, make one up!
- Record the song using a smartphone, karaoke machine or another type of recording device.
- Play the song back.
- Consider how the invention of the electret microphone, the small black disk that turned your voice into an electrical signal, made this possible!
- Design an invention prototype that creates a brand new, novel use of the electret microphone. Could you make it part of your clothing or accessories? Upgrade your room? Transform a piece of sports equipment?
Educators: Use this activity in the classroom with these modifications
Tell your class that National Inventors Hall of Fame® Inductees Gerhard Sessler and Jim West, coinventors of the electret microphone, are waiting for them to take their invention to the next level. Ask them to think about a new invention that can use an electret microphone. After children have had a few minutes to think on their own, have them brainstorm as a class to build upon and strengthen each other’s ideas. Challenge them to build a prototype of their new invention out of clay or upcycled items and have them share their prototypes with each other.
What are we learning?
Electret microphones turn sound waves into electrical signals that can be sent to a speaker or other device. Used in everyday items such as cell phones, computers, medical devices and video game headsets, they have changed our world!
Prototypes help inventors think through their ideas and allow them to easily share their work with others. The art and science of prototyping is an important skill set that improves with experience.
National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees Gerhard Sessler and Jim West worked for Bell Laboratories and are credited with inventing the electret microphone. This type of microphone is one of the most commonly used in the world, and it’s likely that you encounter this technology every day. While engaging in this STEM activity, think about how West and Sessler worked to improve existing technology and how you too could create a better version of an everyday item!
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