Science Project:

WiFi Signal Strength

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Materials:

  • The experiment requires wireless access to the Internet (a WiFi hotspot). Ideally the student will own or be able to borrow a wireless device (e.g., personal computer, video game console, smartphone, or digital audio player) that displays WiFi signal strength. If this is not the case, a standalone wireless detector may be purchased.
  • Wireless devices that connect to the Internet and WiFi hotspots are present in many homes. WiFi hotspots are accessible in many homes as well as business establishments outside the home. Inexpensive WiFi detectors can be purchased on the Internet.

Procedure

  1. Measure the WiFi signal strength at the hotspot and at several other places within signal range. Note where the signal is no longer detectable.
  2. Propose a model (hypothesis) for how signal strength varies at locations away from the hotspot.
  3. Use the hypothesis to predict the signal strength in an untested location, for example, outside your house.
  4. Test your hypothesis by measuring the signal at the new location.
  5. Accept or revise your hypothesis based on your findings. If you revise the hypothesis, use it to make a new prediction that you can test.

Sample table. Relative attenuation of a signal after passing through various materials

Material
Relative signal strength
Plasterboard wall
0.50
Glass window
0.50
Cinder block wall
0.40
Metal door
0.25

Author: Randall Frost, Ph.D.
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