A potentiometer is a type of resistor. The word itself derives from the phrase “voltage potential,” and “potential” is used to refer to “strength” (Academickids.com). Resistors control the flow of the electric current in a circuit. Think of a kink in a garden hose that stops the water from flowing.
Where can we find resistors in our daily life?
Resistors are used in all sorts of common household appliances, like light dimmers (which we’ll be making in this kit!) and also used to adjust volume on items such as televisions and radios.
Light dimmers are resistors that let you control the amount of energy flowing to your lights. Adding more resistance reduces the brightness. We can also set up a potentiometer as a knob turning left and right.
Making our Knob Dimmer DIY Kit
The Knob Dimmer DIY Kit is a project in the Electronics and Circuitry series—a group of projects that encourage hands-on learning in accordance with NGSS Standards for Energy and Energy Transfer. Through these projects students can explore scientific ideas to design, test and refine a device that converts energy from one form to another (4-PS3-4).
Let’s take a look at how we make a circuit and our own DIY light dimmer using the kit. We’re going to be using a breadboard because they’re the perfect vehicles of electronic experimentation! For more on breadboards, head to our recent blog post here.
First, we insert the jumper wires and the LED into our breadboard. Then, it’s time to insert the switch! Finally, to test our project, we send current to the potentiometer.
Turn the knob in either direction to direct the flow of the current through either color LED on one side or the other. We can compare the circuits and remember when we decrease resistance, we allow more electricity to flow.
What have we made? What can we do with it?
Now you and your students have just made a circuit incorporating a potentiometer…and also a light dimmer miniature exposé! Next comes the best part—encourage your students to take the circuit back apart and start experimenting. Have you already put together our BreadBoard Basics DIY Kit? Try combining the cumulative materials of both into an even more advanced circuit.
Did you or your student make an interesting new project with a multi-path circuit using our DIY Kit components? Upload a snap of your project on any social media and tag us for a chance to be featured on our page. Time to crank up the imagination and creativity!
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