Electrons to Electricity - How does a Circuit Work?   

Melissa Beemsterboer
4-5 weeks
High School Honors Physics


These basic questions are answered through a combination of both hands on activities (using actual circuit components like light bulbs, LEDs, batteries, wires, resistors, and switches) and simulations (circuit simulations from pHet.colorado.edu). These materials must be made available in class in order for students to get the full experience with circuits, and to ensure maximum retention! Encouraging students to struggle with these materials in hand also builds their tenacity.

After these basic questions are answered, students begin some lessons that teach them the basics of coding. The goal here is to help them comine what they know of how to build a circuit with some basic coding knowledge in order to program an arduino connected to a breadboard they set up to perform a task of their choosing. The coding and arduino programming are not heavy. The coding is done in a block-based platform called "Scratch" (scratch.edu) so it is easily accessible for students who have no experience with computer programming. The lessons will guide them step by step and coach them on how to use the arduino as well.

In the end they should come away with a full knowledge on how the circuit they created on their breadboard works, and an appreciation for the marriage of circuitry and computer-programming to create some really cool effects!

Note: Unlike some traditional physics units, this unit has swapped the hands on, modern-day scientist task of programming an arduino in place of teaching about series and parallel circuits.


Next Generation Science Standards
  •   Engineering, Technology, Applications of Science
  •   Physical Science
  •   NGSS Crosscutting Concept
    • Systems
    • Energy
  •   NGSS Practice
    • Analyzing Data
    • Constructing Explanations, Designing Solutions
    • Using Models
    • Using Mathematics
    • Conducting Investigations
Computational Thinking in STEM
  •   Data Practices
    • Analyzing Data
    • Collecting Data
    • Visualizing Data
  •   Modeling and Simulation Practices
    • Assessing Computational Models
    • Constructing Computational Models
  •   Computational Problem Solving Practices
    • Computer Programming
    • Troubleshooting and Debugging


Unit designed by Melissa Beemsterboer a teacher at Lindblom.