In this activity, students will learn about series and parallel circuits through littleBits, then program the Sphero robot to move through series and parallel circuit paths. As the robot moves through the paths, calculations for voltage, current, and resistance will be announced.
Course/SkillsBuild for Student Module: SkillsBuild Lab littleBits and Sphero Learning Plan
Length of class: Activities vary in time allotment, but most can easily accommodate a 40 minute class period.
Outcomes: What learners will be able to know, do, or value by the end of the lesson.
- Students understand how circuits work.
- Students will be able to define the terms: series circuit, parallel circuit, voltage, current, resistance, closed circuit, open circuit.
- Students will be able to create series and parallel circuits using Bits.
- Students will utilize Ohm’s Law to make electrical calculations.
- Students will be able to program the Sphero robot to move through a series circuit.
- Students will be able to program the Sphero robot to move through a parallel circuit.
Workplace learning skills:
- Analytical thinking
Learning Environment Needs:
Table space for the computer, workspace for the kit components, and stable space for the poster paper circuits that the robot will traverse (floor, tabletop, etc.).
Prework for Educators
- Prior lessons on using both the Sphero robot and littleBits components should be completed so students are familiar with their use before moving into an activity combining them.
- littleBits STEAM+ Coding Invention Guide (PDF)
- How Circuits Work
- Ohm’s Law Explained – the basics circuit theory (video): (9:59 min)
- Ohm’s Law (video transcript): https://theengineeringmindset.com/ohms-law/
Part 1: Activity
Start the lesson by instructing students to read pages 1-3 of How Circuits Work. The information on these pages will be required knowledge for the activities.
Students should be put into pairs for this activity. Each team should be provided a littleBits STEAM+ Coding kit.
Next students will build a series circuit with Bits.
- Students should get a single power Bit, battery, cable, and long LED from the kit to create a simple series circuit.
- Using the Circuit Symbols handout as a guide, on the 8 ½ x 11 sheets, students should use the markers to draw a diagram of the series circuit they just built (sample series circuit drawing jpg in Additional Resources).
Student teams can peer check the drawings.
Now students will build a parallel circuit with Bits.
- Students should get a single power Bit, battery, cable, a long LED, a single fork Bit, and two additional output Bits (buzzer, fan) from the kit to build a circuit that demonstrates three outputs that are equally powered at once: light, sound, and motion. Students should have a single output Bit snapped to each branch of the fork (the order of the outputs doesn’t matter; they just shouldn’t all be snapped to a single branch) to create a parallel circuit. (See p.17 of the Invention Guide for reference.)
- Option: adding an input Bit before the fork Bit can provide an alternative way to manage the components on this circuit.
- Using the Circuit Symbols handout as a guide, on the 8 ½ x 11 sheets, students should use the markers to draw a diagram of the parallel circuit they just built. (The buzzer and fan can be represented by symbols similar to the light bulb symbol.)
- Student teams can peer check the drawings.
Part 2: Activity 2
For the next activity, students will complete a Coding Challenge.
- Show the video Ohm’s Law Explained (9:59 min)
- Students will follow the activity directions detailed on the Circuit Coding Challenge Student Instructions handout to program the Sphero to follow circuit paths and announce electrical computations.
Check for prior knowledge. Ask students questions like “What kinds of careers could involve electronics?” Have students read Mechanical Engineers: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more.
(Optional) Students could also individually or in groups pick a career related to this area to further research. Ask them to complete this Career Research Graphic Organizer. If time allows, students can present their findings to the class. (optional)
Based on application, how I will I know learners have met intended outcome?
— KWHLAQ worksheet
— Teacher may wish to create a rubric for the activity
— Career Research Graphic Organizer
How will I bring lesson to an effective closing?
- Check for understanding and answer any subsequent questions
- Emphasize key information
- Ask the question “What information did you learn that you think you will find important 3 years from now?”
- Remind students that there are more relevant courses on SkillsBuild for Students to continue their learning
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