Electrical Circuit
Electricity and Magnetism

Make or break!

Classroom Activity for 11-14 Supporting Physics Teaching

What the Activity is for

This is a design and make activity through which you can review the idea of a complete circuit with the pupils and help them to build a circuit using the available laboratory equipment.

  • To capture interest.
  • To review the idea of a complete circuit.
  • To engage pupils in designing and making circuits using appropriate laboratory equipment.
  • To encourage pupils to talk and think about simple electric circuits.

What to Prepare

  • low voltage supplies, such as power packs or batteries
  • buzzers and bells
  • connecting wires, both 4 millimetre leads and insulated wire
  • copper wire, copper strip, stiff card, plastic foam or sellotape

What Happens During this Activity

Start by demonstrating with a simple circuit containing a battery and a buzzer or bell that a complete circuit is needed for a buzz or ring. Then explain that the pupils are going to use this simple principle to design and make one of three devices:

  • A burglar alarm for the classroom door: open the door and the bell rings.
  • A pressure pad alarm: stand on the mat and the bell rings (or sit on the chair and the bell rings).
  • A steady hand tester: touch the wire with the loop and the bell rings.

Divide the pupils up into teams of three or four and allocate a device to each team. Insist that the teams spend 10 minutes in talking through and drawing out their ideas before starting to work with the equipment. Equipment and materials should be set out so that the teams can collect whatever items they think will be useful. Be prepared for requests for additional items!

Allow plenty of time at the end of the lesson for each team to:

  • Describe their invention.
  • Explain how the device works.

To add to the sense of occasion, you might get some pupils to invite a senior member of staff into the lesson to try out the alarmed chair!

Experience has shown that the pupils really enjoy this activity and that it provides an excellent opportunity for talking around basic electric circuit ideas. Be prepared for pupils insisting that their door alarm is left in place, and then showing their friends from other classes how it works at break time!

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