Our STEM project: Making a light up card using an LED bulb
1st and 2nd class decided to look at the topic of electricity and in particular, circuits.
- We first decided to have a think about what electricity was. We had an oral language discussion on what things use electricity, in our houses, school etc. The boys soon came up with lots of things – it did strike me during this conversation how some of their answers were different to what they would have been a few years ago (notably things like WIFI, the iPad, iPhone etc.). They soon identified lots of things. We added these as well as other things we already knew about electricity to the K section of our KWL chart (what I know, what I want to know , what I have learned )
- Using a couple of resources from Twinkl we looked at a word mat based on electricity and learned about wind turbines , solar panels , etc. which led to lots of interesting discussion and questioning.
- We added things into the W section of our chart. These included some interesting questions from the boys such as why birds don’t get electrocuted on overhead wires.
- To prepare for our circuits we learned about conductors and insulators. We looked at videos on Youtube about these. We talked about what materials were conductors and insulators. I gave the children some problems to think about like, What would happen if I was in shorts going down a metal slide when it’s sunny vs. a plastic slide, wooden benches vs metal benches. Why have plugs got plastic wires on the outside but metal wires on the inside etc. The children really got the concept of this and there were some very interesting discussions.
- We learned about Venn Diagrams and made one of conductor’s vs insulators and what items might be considered both. The boys had fantastic answers for this such as pencils because of the wood and lead, glasses because of the metal frame but the glass lenses.
- We talked briefly about LED’s. We looked at LED in football stadiums and we discovered the Pairc Ui Chaoimh in Cork is the first stadium to have LED flood lighting and one of only a few in Europe!
- We then looked at what a circuit was. We discussed what’s needed to make a circuit work, battery, light source and a conductor. We also talked about how it has to be closed for it to work. We talked about what might be a good conductor for our own circuits.
- We then went about making our own circuits. We had a series of steps to complete.
- We explained all the instructions to the boys and we discussed how our circuits would work. We made our circuits together.
- Firstly the boys coloured their cards. We got the templates , LED bulbs and copper tape from “stemeducational.ie”
- The boys had to have two pieces of copper tape measuring 7cm and one piece of 4cm. I assisted them in measuring these out using a ruler.
- Using a diagram they had to stick one 7cm piece and the 4cm piece of tape down in the correct place.
- Then we attached the LED and stuck it through the front of the card. We talked about how the LED had to touch both sides of the tape (closed circuit) so our circuit would work.
- We added the coin batteries.
- We used the last piece of 7cm tape, facing down this time to close the circuit.
Through some experimentation, failures, restarts, and modifications, we were eventually successful at creating our circuits. Just like the actual engineering design process, we had to sometimes stop and ask ourselves,
“Okay, what is going on here?”
“Why is this not working?”
“What can we do differently?”
“What would happen if I did/ didn’t do this?”
I’m not going to lie: We had challenges. The boys had to face some problems – but that’s the point of STEM challenges. They need to learn patience and how to think critically.
We discovered that lifting the copper tape too many times caused it to not be as effective as it was in the beginning which led to questioning. Why do you think this is? What is causing the current to not flow as well now with the copper tape?
Also we couldn’t source 3V coin batteries only 1.5V. This in itself lead to some interesting suggestions, maths and trials from the boys. We came to the conclusion that it would work if we put two 1.5V batteries on top of each other.
Finally we completed the L section of our KWL chart and reflected on what we had learned. Both the boys and I really enjoyed and engaged with this topic and project and I felt they learned a lot. The future is as bright as our LED bulbs for the budding engineers, mathematicians and now electricians in Ms.O’Donoghue’s class!!!