As part of the Creator's Studio elective course, I teach the concept of circuits using kits such as LittleBits and Squishy Circuits. Understanding how a circuit works is an important step in project development, as most class projects require some kind of circuit in order to function. Interestingly, it wasn't until constructing these items this week (and watching the course videos) that I realized how structured my activities have been. While my students are given time to explore how circuits work through the LittleBits and Squishy Circuits kits, I find myself providing a lot of information upfront, rather than letting them discover how circuits work purely through hands-on exploration, tinkering and reflection. As much as I enjoy the LittleBits kits, they are hard to get wrong. Students can experiment with different components but they can't mis-wire anything because the magnets that attach the components work only in one direction. Squishy Circuits are also fun, if a bit messy, but limited to a few components that work at fairly low voltages.
To complete this new project using the spare parts I gathered, I cut down a 4" x 4" wood post in 1" slices to serve as bases for each component. A few nails and stripped wire, solder and glue gun, and I'm up and running. I'm now on a mission to find other components from old toy parts, used household items, and neighborhood garage sale treasures.
I look forward to doing this activity with students in the fall. Using the new circuit components, students can set up various scenarios; lights in series versus lights in parallel, single pole versus double pole switches, 3V power versus 6V power, large and small fans, strange new motors, and solar power versus battery power, just to name a few. Perhaps more importantly, students can try wiring components up in all sorts of combinations, some of which will work, others that will not. All of this exploration will drive the conversation, and I can participate rather than direct the flow.
I remember playing with these very same items when I visited the Exploratorium, and always left with a feeling of having learned something new, and having fun. I am excited to see them up and running in my own classroom.