Tag Archives: breadboard

Have You Ever Wanted to Be a Spy?? All About Our Electrical Engineering Design Challenge

In the culmination of our Steam Innovators Program, students complete the Electrical Engineering Design Challenge. In this kit, they build a nonvocal communication device utilizing a code that they develop to send messages via colored LEDS. 

Nonvocal is an umbrella term that refers to verbal communication without the element of voice. Meaning, nonvocal communication elements can include “the use of unspoken symbols (or gestures) to create meaning.”

The program incorporates aspects of the Engineering Design Process to develop prototypes—a skill that encourages students to think like innovators. As you’ll remember from our Breadboard DIY Kit, a breadboard allows students to test out what works and what doesn’t. 

The Electrical Engineering Design Challenge is our culmination project after students have completed seven other circuit-based projects leading up to the challenge. Breadboards and batteries allow students to create projects in the classroom that would otherwise be difficult to achieve in this setting. 

Some of the materials in this kit include the breadboard, CR2032 battery and holder, LEDs, copper tape, plug-to-plug jumper wires, and your glove. The blank breadboard is used to plan out and diagram your circuit.

In this kit, students assemble the piece of wearable technology, illustrate the circuit, create their code using their Design Challenge Workbook, then test the code and use it to communicate with other students! The workbook has all your instructions, a place to design your code, and all your blueprints.

A blueprint is a two-dimensional set of drawings that provides a detailed visual representation of how an architect wants a building to look. Blueprints typically specify a building’s dimensions, construction materials, and the exact placement of all its components.

Here you can see two students at SAR Academy, in Riverdale, NY using their nonvocal communication gloves to transmit their secret messages to each other. 

Because the electronic device is wearable and uses LEDS, it allows for the sneakiest of messages in the dark. Students practice their hand at constructing a simple circuit and then put it to practical application. Have fun deciphering messages!

 

What’s a Potentiometer? All About our Knob Dimmer DIY Kit

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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What’s a Photometer? All About Our Light Sensitivity DIY Kit!

“I love plants and have some in my bedroom window and now I can measure how much light they’re getting!”

—5th grade student, SAR Academy 

In our last blog post we talked all about what a breadboard is and how it can help us tinker and explore. In order to learn more about light and electronics, we’re also going to use a breadboard to experiment and make our own DIY photometer. 

A photometer is a tool that measures the strength of light. It converts light into electricity using a photoresistor (fishersci.com).

Once we make that…well then the options are endless what we can do with it! One way, pictured above, is to measure how much light our plants are receiving to make sure they’re staying healthy.  

We already know all about how beneficial experimentation and curiosity is to deeper learning, and with this DIY Kit, we dive deeper into circuitry. In order to make our own photometer, we will need the breadboard, LEDs, batteries, jumper wires, and a photoresistor.

What’s a photoresistor?

You’re walking down the street at dusk—the light is hazy and golden. As you round the corner, the sun begins to set…and as it gets darker…the street lights POP on. This is because there’s a tiny piece of electronic hardware in the lamppost called a photoresistor. It doesn’t have a positive or negative terminal, so electricity can flow through in either direction.

A photoresistor is a type of resistor. Resistors work similarly to a kink in a garden hose slowing or stopping the water. When we add a resistor to a circuit before an LED, we can dim the LEDs brightness. You might use a resistor to dim the lights in your home.

What makes photoresistors special is their ability to sense light. If it senses a lot of light, it reduces resistance and lets electricity flow. If it doesn’t sense light, it creates a large amount of resistance and prevents electricity from flowing.

How do we make the photometer?

First, we insert the photoresistor in the breadboard. Then, we insert the jumper wires. Now we can follow our created circuit! The DIY kit includes all the fun instructions to create your own tool. 

How is the photoresistor relevant to our daily lives?

Every day we interact with electronic devices in many ways—buttons, switches, remote controllers, voice commands, touch screens, night lights, etc. Photoresistors allow us to interact with electronics in a very cool way. 

The Light Sensitivity DIY kit is designed to demonstrate the way we can interact with electronics using light, which helps with visual learning. We can even see the level of light that our plants are receiving by the brightness of the LED, which makes this DIY kit extremely interactive and useful even after assembly. 

Therefore, students learn while they make the photometer and then they can observe their surroundings with their newly created tool!