Mini Wave Model





Introduction: Mini Wave Model

About: The Oakland Toy Lab is a community-based wonder lab for students to build, tinker, explore, make, break, and learn! We are writing up engaging science experiences so that educators, parents, youth, and famil...

A little wave goes a long way!

The mini wave model is small but mighty. With just a few minutes of set-up, it's just as good at demonstrating as its bigger siblings. This is a great model for waves that move, reflect, stand, and wiggle, perfect for a starter project in classrooms learning about waves and motion.

  • What: Mini Wave Model
  • Concepts: waves, propagation, physics
  • Time: ~15 minutes to set up
  • Cost: ~$1.50
  • Materials:
    • Bolts x 2 (with nuts that fit)
    • Nuts x 40 (or so)
    • Sticks (I used candy sticks, but cut dowel or other sticks work great, too)
    • String
    • Block of wood (2x4 works great)
  • Tools:
    • Drill
    • Hot glue gun / hot glue
    • Ruler
    • Scissors
    • Make

Hop on the wave!

Step 1: Post Up

Let's dive in! Grab a drill bit that's a little narrower than your bolt, and drill halfway through your block of wood. Add a nut and twist it in. Repeat on the other side, too.

If you want, you can add to posts on each side that are evenly spread apart. This can make the finished wave model a little more stable if you're having trouble with it.

Step 2: Tie Tightly

Starting with one post, tie your string, wrap around the other, and tie back to that original post. You want it about as tight as you can manage without needing to strain. Cut off the extra bit and add a little hot glue to keep all ends in place.

Step 3: Little Dumbbells

Make the world's smallest weight set!

Start by lining up your sticks, and marking the center of each one. You can do this quickly down a line once you got them all lined up. Add a nut to either end of each of your sticks. Add a little hot glue to each and repeat for your entire line. The weights will help the wave's momentum and propagation.

Step 4: Measure, Mark, and Glue

Choose a spacing for your dumbbells, and mark your string accordingly. I marked every 1/2" but decided to glue dumbbells every inch along the way. Apply glue to both strings and place the dumbbell over to fit snugly. When you reached the line, it's time to give a wave!

Step 5: Wave Hello!

Your wave model is ready for action!

Here are some things to try and notice:

  • Tapping - give a light tap to different sticks. What's the difference between a tap in the middle and on the end.
  • Reflection - watch a wave as it gets to the end and comes back. Which way does it go? Does it wave the same way as on the way there?
  • Standing Waves - take a stick and wave it back and forth trying to get in beat with its reflected self. You can create nodes that move only small amounts.

There is so much more to learn about waves! For a quick primer, try this out. If you want to mega-size this project, you can try out the GIANT wave model, too!

Have fun, wave on, and keep exploring.



  • Oil Contest

    Oil Contest
  • Stick It! Contest

    Stick It! Contest
  • Water Contest

    Water Contest

20 Discussions

I like this idea. I made a giant one for my classroom but used gunny bears instead of nuts. The perishable downfall is outweighed by the fact that they can be replaced with gummy orange wedges to show how changing medium changes the speed of the wave.


1 year ago

Built it and looks super cool. The only problem I have is that the string expands and the sticks shift within few days. I tried different materials but so far no solution :/

I guess it takes a person who likes this kind of stuff so for me, this is a truly awesome video! Thank you so very much for sharing.

This is one of my favourite videos, I have been showing my students this for years!


2 years ago

this would be a great gift idea too for someone who works at a desk everyday :-)

Sweet :-) might have to make one for Hubby for his desk :-) lol not sure how the cat will react to it :-) would be fun for that alone :-)


2 years ago

Nice and simple but where's the video? I want to see this in action.

6 replies

Yes, good response. Especially if you are trying to avoid the obvious of putting up a video… ;)

Actually, I should have said "funny response" as I agree that it would be nice to have a video to see if it's worth my time to build. :)

Well that's one good reason and another reason is just to show the result of you work too.

James Maxwell would have appreciated this model to visualise this theory of electromagnetic waves.

Very innovative.

Very nice.

This is great. I'm going to make them for my grandchildren. Excellent learning toy or not a toy project.

I have seen them on science exhibitions. Looks like I need to make one for the moments where nothing helps but contemplation :-)

1 reply