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Make Your Own Vuvuzela Sound

Love World Cup Soccer? Make your own stadium horn.

The vuvuzela (pronounced voo-voo-zay-luh) is a stadium horn that comes from South Africa. Fans blow the horn during soccer (football) matches to cheer on their team. The horn has a loud and raucous sound that has become controversial during World Cup soccer matches. The horn’s high sound pressure levels can lead to hearing loss after extensive exposure. The sound produced by a lot of vuvuzelas during a match can sound like a swarm of angry bees. Now you can make your own vuvuzela sound at home that won’t cause health issues or anger the neighbors too much.

Experiment Materials

  • Clear latex balloons (9" to 11" balloons from a party store work great)
  • Some 1/4" hex nuts from the hardware store

Experiment

Warning: If you are a kid, DO NOT let your parents read this! You’ll find that your balloon is always getting popped! Why, you may ask? Keep going… you’ll see.

  1. Squeeze the hex nut through the mouth of the balloon. Make sure that the hex nut goes all the way into the balloon so that there is no danger of it being sucked out while blowing up the balloon.
  2. Blow up the balloon, but be careful not to overinflate the balloon, as it will easily burst. Tie off the balloon and you’re ready to go.
  3. Grip the balloon at the stem end as you would a bowling ball. The neck of the balloon will be in your palm and your fingers and thumb will extend down the sides of the balloon.
  4. While holding the balloon, palm down, swirl it in a circular motion. The hex nut may bounce around at first, but it will soon begin to roll around the inside of the balloon. What is that sound? Could the balloon be screaming? The sound every parent loves…
  5. Once the hex nut begins to spin, use your other hand to stabilize the balloon. Your hex nut should continue to spin for 10 seconds or more.

What happens when you change the size of the balloon or the size of the hex nut? Try using a marble instead of a hex nut. Does the marble make the balloon “scream?” Experiment with other objects whose edges may vibrate against the balloon.

Although this activity can drive parents crazy, it won’t cause hearing loss like the real vuvuzelas. If it does get too annoying, you can silence it by popping the balloon.

How Does It Work?

The hex nut makes a circle inside the balloon due to centripetal force. It’s the inward force on a body that causes it to move in a circular path, making it a center-seeking force. The multiple sides of a hex nut cause it to bounce and vibrate while on its path around inside the balloon. The vuvuzela sound comes from the sides of the hex nut vibrating along the sides of the balloon. The sound is similar to a vuvuzela, but not the same thing. The vuvuzela is a long horn and its pitch depends upon how it is blown into. The more pressure exerted while blowing into it will change the pitch and frequency of the sound created. It uses air pressure and not centripetal force to create a sound.