90 Minutes | 5th – 12th Grades

IMG_1203The Telecommunications activity introduces the various ways in which we communicate with each other on a daily basis, and discusses the impact of communication – both verbal and non-verbal.

In the first part of the activity, the students examine how cell phone systems work, and how these are integrated into the landline phone network as well as the cell network. The students learn about cell towers, how they are connected to the service provider’s Mobile Telephone Switching Offices, and how these MTSO’s are connected to each other, and to the landline system. The students were then introduced to the third type of phone – satellite phones, and the satellite system required for their use.

In the second part, students analyze a basic version of a telecommunications system in Massachusetts. This system includes several Local Switching Centers, Mobile Telephone Switching Offices, cell towers, houses, etc. Using their physical models laid out on the floor of the classroom, each group must lay out a phone call transmission, using different colors of string to indicate the method of transmission.

This activity can be combined with a campus-wide, Android-based WiFi EggHunt, in which students look for WiFi access point connections, and a visit to Dr. Kaushik Chowdhury’s lab, to see his research and equipment on telecommunications.

Telecommunications Activity Handout
Telecommunications Info and Fact Sheet for Teachers
Morse Code with Snap Circuits
Morse Code without Snap Circuits

Telecommunications Prezi

Additional Resources:
48 million people in the world have cell phones but no electricity; on you can learn more about how we interact with cell phones every day. discusses online safety and security. The content differs by grade, but some topics include cyberbullying, social networking safety, and identity theft.

I’m Not in Range Activity – Here is another activity that shows students the importance of cell towers and why calls are dropped.

Hello, Are You Listening? Activity – This is another activity that is similar idea to the above activity, but also explains land line connections.


  • 5.3-5-ETS3-1(MA). Use informational text to provide examples of improvements to existing technologies (innovations) and the development of new technologies (inventions). Recognize that technology is any modification of the natural or designed world done to fulfill human needs or wants.
  • 7.MS-ETS3-1(MA). Explain the function of a communication system and the role of its components, including a source, encoder, transmitter, receiver, decoder, and storage
  • 7.MS-ETS3-2(MA). Compare the benefits and drawbacks of different communication systems.

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