Electrical Engineers for a Day

Author: Mark Roland (Using web-based simulators by James A. Svoboda, Clarkson University, and the Ohm Zone, by the Article-19 Group)


3 class periods

Preparation Time:

0-30 minutes (pre-ordering supplies might be necessary)

Materials: See options below

There are a few options for this lesson, depending on the resources available. There are two projects provided that would require purchases. The costs are relatively low, and some suggestions are made on how to keep them even lower. Both projects involve the actual construction of some electronic devices, which is a great way for students to finish this unit. However, if money is not available for this, a few web-based circuit design programs are provided that can be used to re-enforce the concepts of circuit design.

Purpose – To apply the knowledge learned about electricity and circuits to build an electronic device.

Students will be able to:
1. Use Ohm’s Law, Kirchoff’s Law, and knowledge of parallel circuits to design circuits and build an electronic device in the classroom. (If applicable)

National Science Education Standard:
Content Standard E-Science and Technology
• Creativity, imagination, and a good knowledge base are all required in the work of science and engineering.
• Science and technology are pursued for different purposes. Scientific inquiry is driven by the desire to understand the natural world, and technological design is driven by the need to meet human needs and solve human problems. Technology, by its nature, has a more direct effect on society than science because its purpose is to solve human problems, help humans adapt, and fulfill human aspirations. Technological solutions may create new problems. Science, by its nature, answers questions that may or may not directly influence humans. Sometimes scientific advances challenge people's beliefs and practical explanations concerning various aspects of the world.

Related and Resource Websites

Option 1-Floppy the Robot or
http://www.ohmslaw.com/radiokits.htm (Option 2-Radio Kits)
http://www.article19.com/shockwave/oz.htm (The Ohm Zone)
http://www.clarkson.edu/~svoboda/eta/Circuit_Design_Lab/circuit_design_lab.html (Circuits applets)



Option 1—“Floppy the Robot”

This option allows students to build a robot out of a 3-½ inch floppy disk drive, two floppy disks, and some other miscellaneous supplies. The website referenced above provides detailed steps on the procedure for doing this. The floppy drives can be found on-line for about $5 a piece. If you choose to do this project, ask students or co-workers to save old, unwanted floppy disks (like the ones you get in the mail). One or two robots could be built by the whole class. (Consider having assigned roles to ensure that each student participates. If you are working on only one for a whole class, small groups of students could be responsible for certain steps, so that it becomes a team effort. When not participating, the other students could work on the activities outlined in option 3.

Option 2—“Radio Kits”

These kits are much easier to build than the robot. They are pre-manufactured kits that produce a credit card sized radio receiver. They are available for $19.95 each. It would probably not be as interesting to the students as building a robot, but it would be much easier to assemble.

Option 3—Web simulations

The two remaining websites, the Ohm Zone, and the Circuits Applets, could be used during down time if using Option 1 or 2. It could also be used as a stand-alone activity, although more structure is recommended than what is provided here.

1. The Circuits Applets website is an index page. On this page, under DC circuits are five links to activities congruent to the lessons of this unit: Voltage Divider, Current Divider, Series Resistors, Parallel Resistors, and Equivalent Resistance. Each of these five applets is a simple circuit with entirely variable elements. It has a voltmeter or an ammeter attached to one of the circuit elements.

2. Underneath each simulation is a series of challenges. They ask the student to set all but one of the variable elements, and then predict what the last element should be in order to obtain a desired output.
Important note!!—The students can change the last variable element and see the answer without doing any work. In order to get around this, I suggest allowing the students to look at the circuit diagram and work through the first few problems together to see how it works. After that, have the students copy the circuit diagram and print out the rest of the problems (have handouts prepared if this cannot easily be done). Turn off the computer, forcing the students to work their answers first. After they have shown their work to you, they may return to the computer simulation to check their answers.

4. The Ohm Zone website allows students to create any circuit they desire with certain starting materials. They have one 10 V battery, 8 resistors, 6 light bulbs with a given resistance, two switches, a voltmeter, an ammeter and a variety of wires with very small resistances. This could be used to attempt to duplicate the results of the Circuit Lab. It could also be used along with a worksheet asking for certain circuit problems to be solved. This is where more structure would be needed should you choose only option 3. This website is somewhat useful with little structure because of entertaining and informative graphics; however, if you plan on three days at the computer, you might want to create a worksheet to guide students on this website.

Embedded Assessment
• Successful completion of the project(s)
• Peer evaluation of contribution of all team members
• Worksheets to accompany web-based activities (there are problems to solve on the Circuits Applets web-site)

Embedded Assessment











PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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