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Teaching the Fundamentals of Cell Phones and Wireless Communications

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Physics Teacher Volume 48, Number 4, ISSN 0031-921X


Wireless communications are ubiquitous. Students and teachers use iPhones[R], BlackBerrys[R], and other smart phones at home and at work. More than 275 million Americans had cell phones in June of 2009 and expanded access to broadband is predicted this year. Despite the plethora of users, most students and teachers do not understand "how they work." Over the past several years, three high school teachers have collaborated with engineers at Cingular, Motorola, and the University of Michigan to explore the underlying science and design a three-week, student-centered unit with a constructivist pedagogy consistent with the "Modeling in Physics" philosophy. This unique pilot program reinforces traditional physics topics including vibrations and waves, sound, light, electricity and magnetism, and also introduces key concepts in communications and information theory. This article will describe the motivation for our work, outline a few key concepts with the corresponding student activities, and provide a summary of the program that has been developed to engage and inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and citizens.


Davids, M., Forrest, R. & Pata, D. (2010). Teaching the Fundamentals of Cell Phones and Wireless Communications. Physics Teacher, 48(4), 217-221. Retrieved October 24, 2020 from .

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