Happy Wifi, Happy Lifi

A study of a parabolic reflectors effect on Wifi

by Reid Valentine

Background Info

What is a Parabolic Reflection?

· “A special type of curve that has a focal point to where beams are reflected”

· It has a curve

· All parabolas are the same but differ in size and amount

· It captures beams and concentrates the power to a single point, which multiplies the effect of energy on that one spot

· They are mainly used to get solar energy but can be used for other things

· They can be used, if made from glass, as optical illusions or fun-house mirrors

· They were used in old wars to focus sunlight on ships or armor to heat them up and catch them on fire

· They can be used to increase the power of wifi or solar cooking

· It works by refracting energy onto another source or point

· also called a Paraboloid

· Many different modern uses for these devices to enhance all kinds of signals

· Used to collect sound, radio waves, on light

· First used in 300 BC

· Many old lighthouses used this to light the seas at night

· Used by Isaac Newton in 17th Century with the reflecting telescopes, r-dio teles, parabolic microphones, spot lights, and headlights

· The Olympic Flame has been lit from a parabolic reflector by concentrating sunlight

· Although they are very expensive to manufacture, they need very little maintenance

Parabolic Trough

· It is focused on the line and generates solar power from concentrated sunlight

What is Wifi made of?

· It is made of radio waves, just like a two way radio

· A computer is one radio and the router is the other. The computer sends info back to the computer from the internet thus being able to do anything on the internet

· It also works in reverse when the internet sends it back to the computer (refresh)

· They transmit at 2.4 GHZ or 5 GHz, much higher than cell phones or walkie talkies do, the higher frequency allows the devices to be able to send more information between each other

· Named in 1999 WiFi by Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance

· First Success when Apple made it built in on iBook computers

What is WiFi?

· Internet, Modem, Wireless Router, device

· The quality of the Wifi card in the device will affect the strength of the reception on the device

· To improve the receptions on computers you can purchase a USB Wifi antenna to improve reception

· 4 different types of Wifi: 802.lla, 802.llb, 802.llg, 802.lln (from weakest to strongest)

· Obstructions can weaken or slow Wifi signals indoors and usually cut 802.lln to 200 feet range

· Outdoor 802.lln outside usually reaches 800 feet because of the less obstructions

· Maximum Wifi speed is 600 MGps and can only be achieved on the 5Ghz frequency but many devices do not even need speeds this fast to achieve instant reception

What interferes or blocks Wifi?

· Neighbors Wifi networks can interfere and reduce your wifi range because they are all on the 2.4 GHz frequency like a crowded three way road

· Metals of appliances: older models interfere with the radio waves because of the microwaves it puts off when in use

· Water can slow the wifi signal

· Humans, when in large masses (parties, gatherings) can block/interfere

· Floors can reduce your wifi speed so elevate it from the floor to the waist height

· While wood lets wifi pass through easy, metal desks or walls will obstruct the signal from being at full power

What improves Wifi signals?

· Changing the wifi routers channel to a less crowded one

· Update the firmware can significantly help the speed and range of the wifi

· Update the device firmware for Wifi adapter, because it’s not always the router

· Make the router in a central location in the house or workspace to maximize reception to the whole area

· Set up a second router or repeater to spread the wifi signal from two points in the house

· Adding antennas to the router or device receiving the signal will help

· Get a new more expensive router that runs 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies that minimize interference from other networks


To test the effect of a parabolic reflector on Wifi signal strength.


If I use a parabolic reflector to enhance WiFi signals from different distances and heights, then overall after the data is collected the reflector will have enhanced the WiFi signal by twenty five percent because the reflector will direct the WiFi signal in the direction of the device I will be using.

Parts of the Experiment

Independent Variable-Parabolic Reflector

Dependent-WiFi strength

Control Group-WiFi strength without the reflector

Constants-WiFi router, iPhone with WiFi app


  • WiFi router
  • Cardboard
  • Tin foil
  • Tape
  • iPhone equipped with a WiFi strength app
  • Notebook
  • Tape measure


  1. Build parabolic reflector out of cardboard, tape and, tin foil
  2. Measure the WiFi strength of the router without the reflector from nine different distances and three different heights
  3. Record each data point in the notebook
  4. Measure the strength of the WiFi router from 9 inches farther back each trial
  5. Record the data points in the notebook
  6. Add all of the data points up from the data with the reflector and divide by the sum of the data points of the WiFi strength without the reflector and see the percentage of change


There wasn't much to observe during this project besides the fact that

the wifi strength got weaker that farther I moved away from the source.

Chart without reflector

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Chart with reflector

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Line graph without reflector

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Line graph with reflector

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Average Strength Without Reflector- 11.2 mps

Average Strength With Reflector- 15.3 mps

% Increase on Average From Without to With- 36.6%

(I divided the mean of the test with the reflector by the mean of the test without the reflector, the multiplied that by 100, then subtracted 100 to find the percent increase.)

Statistical Analysis

· I ran two different tests, one with the reflector and one without. I did thrity trials from increasing distances on both tests

· The line graph has a negative correlation, indicating that the strength of the signal decreased as I moved farther away from the router

· It is easy to tell from the graph that the reflector had a positive effect on the signal strength because of the higher y intercept than the other graph

· The test without the reflector had a range of results of 14, while the test with the reflector had a range of 15

· The test with the reflector had a first trial that was already 3 mps higher than the other test without the reflector


My claim was that the reflector would improve the overall WiFi signal by at least 25%. I believed that this would happen because in the research I did, I found that directing the signal toward a device greatly enhances the strength of the signal. The reflectors purpose is to direct the signal in one certain direction. The evidence that the reflector worked can be see in many through the data. The first and most obvious way it can be see is in the difference between the first trials of both tests. The test with the reflector’s first trial was 3 mps higher than the test of the WiFi without the reflector. Another wat the evidence is shown is through the average strength between the two tests, the two averages were 11.2 and 15.3 mps, the higher average being the one of the test with the parabolic reflector. Based on those averages, the test with the reflector had a positive 36.6% increase in strength of signal. The reasoning for the belief that my hypothesis that the reflector would increase the strength by at least was proven by the 36.6% increase in strength. I believe the reflector had this positive effect on the signal because the signal was directed and focused in the direction of the device I was using.


In my hypothesis I claimed that the reflector would improve or strengthen the WiFi signal by at least 25%. Based on the data collected in my tests and trials, I was correct and in fact the effect exceeded expectations. This is all supported by the fact that the reflector increased the strength by 36.6%.

Sources of Error and Inaccuracies

A source of error in the project was the fact that phone being used to measure the signal strength was not always at the exact same height for every single trial. Also the strength could have been affected by all of the other devices in the house that were connected to the signal. The last source of error was that I was not always at the sane angle from the router due to obstacles in my house.


This project is applicable to real life because virtually everyone with technology device uses wifi. All of those devices depend on the wifi for an internet connection, and it may not always be a strong or a fast signal. Wifi can always be stronger or faster so naturally any way to strengthen it will be used. The reflector is one way wifi can be strengthened and my data proves that it works significantly. I could see technology companies taking this rough idea and improving it to sell it for the general public.


To improve this project I would perform testing in an empty room with nothing but a router and a tester. I would also make all other devices disconnect from the signal so there would be minimal interference between the router and the tester. Also, I would test the strength of the signal in the opposite direction of where the reflector is facing. This would test the negative effect of the signal not directed by the reflector.


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  • McGuigan, Brenden, and Niki Foster. “What is a parabolic mirror?” Wisegeek.com, 06 Sept. 2014.Web.30.Sept.2014
  • Johnson, Bernadette, Tracy V Wilson, and Marshall Brian. “How stuff works””What is wifi” Howstuffworks.N.p., 30 Apr. 2001. Web.28. Sept. 2014
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  • “What is a parabolic reflector.” Parabolic reflectors. Solar-Facts, n.d. Web.30.Sept.2014