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The Holiday Workshop 'Electronics and Breadboards'

Updated: Nov 10, 2022

Our Holiday workshop objectives:

  • To learn about the history and discovery of electricity

  • Make a simple circuit on an electronics breadboard

  • Make a 'breadboard' car with working lights using a resistor

  • If time allows, make a buzzer game using the breadboards

Learning about the history and discovery of electricity

I like to put the context of what STEAM area we are focusing on, into context. Therefore, I will always start with a 20 minute introductory presentation about either/or the history, discovery and development of our focus. This time I decided that the children could do with a little understanding about the discovery and what electricity is.

Some interesting facts came from the research into electricity, for instance, according to Wikipedia,

the word 'electricity' comes from the ancient Greek word for amber as in ancient times, rubbing amber created an electrical charge.

Also, although they didn't know what electricity was, electric eels were used in an ancient form of electroconvulsive treatment for nuasea and bad headaches.

Benjamin Franklin, a founding father of the United States was instrumental furthering the understanding of electricity. Benjamin Franklin was a writer, scientist, inventor, diplomat, printer, publisher and political philosopher, a remarkable man.

Making a simple circuit on a breadboard

To be honest, I didn't really know if they Year 5s and Primary school children who attend the workshop, would be able to cope with breadboard circuits. Initially, my thoughts were that they would find the complexity of the circuit system on a breadboard quite difficult to get the their heads around and that we would spend a lot of time on explaining and re-explaining the way it works. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly they caught on.

Make a 'breadboard' car with working lights using a resistor

Soon, they had all created a simple circuit and proven they all understood how a breadboard is connected. After the break, we then moved onto introducing a resistor, explaining how resistors slow electricity so that different parts of your circuitry are not overloaded. In our case we were to make a car using a 9 volt battery a motor turning a propeller, a switch and two small LED diodes for lights. The resistor had to be a 330ohms resistor to reduce the 9v battery to a level of electricity that the LED diodes could cope with.

With a little bit of making regarding helping the wheels turn using straws, we made our cars and managed to create the circuits that made both the motor turn a propeller, therefore pushing it along, and the lights turn on at the same time.

I thought it was really encouraging to see how children 'worked' problems. At first, some were struggling to get their vehicles to work. Some had reversed the instructions in their heads and had to take a lot of their circuitry apart. Nevertheless, they persevered and eventually go the vehicles to light up and move along.

Some managed to test their circuits using a multimeter. Here is a child using a multimeter to test the continuity of their circuit to find out where it wasn't connecting. Notice, also the electricity box in the background. This is a box kit that I have been working on for about a year. It has all of the relevant electricity circuit equipment, labelled in their compartments as well as a few other important items for making working vehicles. I am quite proud of these kits! It was also quite a mission to try to find motors that were 9v motors not 3v motors.

Making a buzzer game using the breadboards

Time went so quickly, and the children seemed to be tinkering and having fun making their cars go fast, that we didn't really have time to go onto the buzzer circuit.

One of the older children did decide he would use the power of a 9v battery to make the fastest car he could. I decided this was fun so joined in to create a small breadboard car. The back wheels were connected to motor a cog on the axle and a small cog to the motor. Eventually, it worked and we were pleasantly satisfied that it was the fastest car he had made.

Lessons from the workshop

On-the-whole, this was a very successful workshop with the main objectives met. I would have liked to have created the buzzer game but time was short so that really was a bit of a stretch. The 9v batteries were wearing out very quickly so ending up giving out rather more 9v batteries than I'd budgeted for.

I would like to do some further exploration of circuits with the children, so if their is demand, I think another Christmas holiday workshop will be circuits with breadboards (part 2).

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