When I started teaching electronics to KS3, I found difficulty in finding a way in which the students could feel ownership of their work and extend their knowledge. Project Tools has provided an excellent platform.
I tried a number of circuits, but with limited resources and a need for a high success rate, I tend to limit the choices for the pupil, with a few exceptions for those students who are obviously confident and competent, thus fulfilling the requirements for differentiation. I would like to pass on my thoughts and successes with a project I called a “Night Light”.
In the original scheme, I set the scene for students to design a promotional item for a theme park or ride. This changed to allow a larger freedom of design, but can easily be adapted to many design themes.
Development of Ideas:
The key difference for my students was that I added an extra LED. If the flashing LED is soldered using the first space on the left (of 3) a wire link is not required and then 2 more LEDs can be connected in the remaining places. It turned out that the ordinarylights would flash in sympathy with the flashing LED if the variable resistor was set at the right value. (Note: some LEDs have slightly different resistances and may require a different resistor in series to get the optimum brightness, but they usually are consistent within a batch).
Planning for Making:
Students often failed to check that the information was complete and correctly printed before signing off and therefore had to start again, but there are techniques that can be employed to limit this problem. I do find that it was very valuable for the students to use the information on the left of the screen to allow them to complete the ‘components required’ section. Having a black and white printer meant that I encouraged students to note colours of resistors, which is a good habit when building the circuit.
Making and Testing:
The completed circuit had an extremely high success rate and even when students fitted LEDs the wrong way round, they could unsolder them and re-solder them correctly without damaging the circuit board, the robust nature of the circuit board is the key to the high success rate.
Since doing this project the students and parents feedback has been encouraging. The only comment I would make is to say that the transistor is difficult to remove and particular care was taken to get it right first time (even then, I had to fix a few). If you do this project, you may wish to set a limited case which has the lights close together (which I did) and if you allow freedom, then the LEDs will need to be fitted to flying leads (which I limited to the best students, based on demonstration of expertise from the previous electronics project).
Ian McKay – Hylands School, Essex