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During winter break, my son and I decided to work on one of his Tinker Crate projects. Many of the boxes we’ve received have involved building electrical circuits, as did the first project we decided to work on. I struggled with understanding circuits in college, so I love how Tinker Crate has enabled my son is able to build simple electrical circuits. He’s already way ahead of where his engineer mom was in college!
Building Electrical Circuits and Playing with Light
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The first thing we always do when we open our Tinker Crate box is lay everything out, and make sure nothing is missing. I learned this step was very important in every lab I had in college. I’m so glad my son is learning this skill early!
First Electrical Circuit
Next my son opened the blue instruction manual, and read he would be building a crystal, and the beginning of the electrical circuits that would light up the crystal! My son followed the instructions step by step. When he was done with the first set of instructions, he had added the crystal, punched 6 brads through crystal’s base, added tabs to the base, and connected 3 wires to three separate brads on the front side of the box. Because the brads were all made of metal, I could see my son was starting to create electrical circuits, but he didn’t see it quite yet.
Second Electrical Circuit
The next part of the instructions guided my son on the steps needed to complete the rest of the electrical circuits. At one point the instructions told him to add a resistor in the circuit for each color. When I asked him what a resistor did, he said “Resist flow!” I was so proud he remembered what he learned in another one of his Tinker Crates!
He put most of the connections together on his own, and only needed help adding the resistors because the wires connected to the resistors kept bending.
Lighting the Crystal
Now it was time to turn the crystal on! We set the color to red, and turned on the crystal!
It worked! My son was so excited!
Me: Remember what electricity is?
Son: Yes. The flow of electrons. (Again, something he learned from a previous Tinker Crate project.)
Me: Right! So where do the electrons start from?
Son: The power source, so…the battery pack.
Me: Right again! When the battery pack is turned on, the electrons flow down the black wire, to the long metal ground bar.
Electrons only flow through conductive materials. Metal is conductive, so the electrons flow through the entire length of the ground bar. What color do we have the crystal set to?
Me: Right. And is the dial for red the closest or farthest dial from the batter pack wire?
Me: Yes! When the electrons reach the closets tab (the red light tab), do they stop?
Son: No! Because the brads are also metal, so the electrons flow through them.
Me: Awesome! The electrons flow through the brad to the front of the baseplate. Since the tabs are also metal, the electrons continue to flow through the tab. When the tab is touching the lower brad on the front of the baseplate, electrons also continue to flow, continuing the electrical circuit.
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Me: Where do the electrons go then?
Son: Back to the back?
Me: Yep! They travel through the brad, to the back of the base. Then they travel up the red wire to the light bulb, and the light bulb turns on!
The electrons then leave the light bulb, and travel through the yellow wire back to the battery pack. The electrical circuit is then complete.
Son: Cool! What happens when we turn on one of the other colors?
Me: The electrons flow through the wires for the other colors, just like they did for the red wires. Why don’t you try for yourself?
Playing with light
He started by first trying blue and green on their own. Then he started combining the different colors to make purple, yellow, and turquoise.
Then he turned all the colors on, and was surprised at what he saw!
Turning on all the colors created white light! This meant that turning on all the electrical circuits sent electrons through the three light circuits at the same time, and the result was white light!
What I love about all our Tinker Crate experiences is that each one teaches us multiple Engineering concepts. In this box we learned more about building electrical circuits, and the full spectrum of light. The Tinker Zine explains the seemingly complicated concepts in such an easy way that is easy enough for even my elementary aged kid to understand!
Read about our other Tinker Crate experiences!
Check out some of my other STEM activities!
The Science Behind Melting Crayons
Making Snow at Home when its Hot Outside
Tensile Strength Experiment: Find the Strongest Spider Web!
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Law of Inertia Experiment using a Fidget Spinner!
Center of Mass Fidget Spinner Experiment
Make an American Flag Using Water Science Experiments
Learning about Friction while Playing in the Snow
Learn about Forces at the Splash Park!
Exploring Energy for Kids: How Are Height and Distance Related?