Wireless communications are ubiquitous. Students and teachers use iPhones®, BlackBerrys®, and other smart phones at home and at work. More than 275 million Americans had cell phones in June of 20091 and expanded access to broadband is predicted this year.2 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.3 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.

CTIA The Wireless Industry report. Visit www.ctia.org/media/industry_info/index.cfm/AID/10323.
, “
Bigger, better broadband
Sci. Am.
The Modeling in Physics program has trained hundreds of physics teachers in researched‐based, constructivist pedagogy. See modeling.asu.edu.
The Detroit Metropolitan Area Physics Teachers (DMAPT) has provided sharing opportunities for high school and university physics teachers since 1958. The DMAPT has about 50 active members and became and affiliate member of the AAPT in 1984. See www.dmaptphysics.com/PhysicsLinks.html.
The Physics Teaching Resource Agents (PTRA) program has trained hundreds of teachers, starting in 1985. See www.aapt.org/ptra.
LabPro and Logger Pro are trademarks of Vernier Software and Technology; www.vernier.com.
The Physics Group at the University of Colorado has an excellent collection of simulations. See PhET.colorado.edu/web‐pages/simulations‐base.html.
The mini‐amp is a combination amplifier‐speaker available from Radio Shack, part #277‐1008, for about $14 each. See www.Radioshack.com.
The voltage probes are supplied as part of the Vernier's LabPro® package.
The bias circuit is now available from Arbor Scientific Company; www.arborsci.com.
Andy Dornan, The Essential Guide to Wireless Communications, 2nd ed. (Prentice Hall, 2002) is an exceptionally useful paper reference.
Claude Shannon, “A mathematical theory of communication,” Bell System Tech. J., available online at: cm.bell‐labs.com/cm/ms/what/shannonday/paper.html.
This website includes a thorough history of the various forms of Moore's law: www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue7_11/tuomi/.
Stewart Wolpin, “Hold the phone,” Invent. Discov. 21–31 (Winter 2007).
Tom Farley, “The cellphone,” Invent. Discov. 8–19 (Winter 2007). Also see his exceptional website: privateline.com.
To learn more about Walsh‐Hadamard codes, see: mathworks.com/access/helpdesk/help/toolbox/commblks/ref/walshcode‐generator.html.
The NEA Learning and Leadership grant has been replaced by the Fund for Teachers grant. See www.nea.org/grants/fft07.html.
CEF is now the Square One Education Network. The foundation is a robust organization of engineers who promote science, engineering, and technology programs for youth. See: www.squareonenetwork.org.
Yazaki is a major supplier of automotive components. See www.yazaki‐na.com/.
Dave Acton is a visionary engineer and entrepreneur. He is also the retired director of Global Telematics for General Motors.
After two full days of training, teachers are loaned the classroom kits. Each kit contains all of the equipment needed for the program, including AM radios, two‐way radios, speakers, laser pointers, photovoltaic cells, mini‐amps, optical fibers, bias circuits, resonance devices, custom shapes, bar code kits, CD of our software programs and computer simulations, Andy Dornan's book, etc.
This content is only available via PDF.
AAPT members receive access to The Physics Teacher and the American Journal of Physics as a member benefit. To learn more about this member benefit and becoming an AAPT member, visit the Joining AAPT page.