Activity 6 - Open Building Session

Activity 6 - Open Building Session

Students work in teams to build a circuit from any of the parts they've seen so far, and we do a coarse evaluation of the learning outcomes.

Open Building Session

In Activity 6, we tried something new. Tashi Choeden recommended that we give the students a chance to build a circuit using any of the components they’ve seen so far. It was a great idea! We explained the format and asked the students to form small groups. They had 5 minutes to discuss the circuit they wanted to build. It could be as simple as rebuilding or modifying a circuit from a previous activity, or as complicated as they could imagine. When they told us what they planed to make we gave them the parts they requested to build it. In the 25 minute building time, they tried out their circuits and prepared the circuit diagrams for what they’d built. We had 36 out of the 62 members of the Himalayan Makers Guild show up for the activity. The low turn-out was due to a public clean up activity and running event that conflicted with our schedule. The gender distribution was 14 boys to 22 girls (39%:61%)1.

In the Himalayan Makers Guild, we’re starting to put more emphasis on group discussion and presentation. These are essential design and engineering skills. We asked each group to do a short presentation at the end of the class to highlight three points:

  1. Describe what the circuit is designed to do
  2. Draw the circuit diagram of what they’ve built
  3. Explain how the circuit works

Evaluating Learning Outcomes

The open building session gave us a valuable opportunity to see how well the students are understanding the material presented in the activities. We used the circuit presentations to gain insight into the student’s achievement of the learning outcomes. It was a very coarse evaluation, since the students were free to choose what to build, worked in groups, and could refer to their previous handouts. Still, it was helpful to pointedly observe their progress. We recorded when the students successfully used a skill (X) or when they tried to use a skill but didn’t succeed or didn’t understand exactly what they’d done (O).

Class9/8  7/6     5/4   
Understanding electricity (rock-slide analogy)XXXXXXXXXXXXX
Reading and drawing circuit diagramsXXOOXOOXOXXOO
Building breadboard circuitsXXOOXXOXOOOOO
Using analog values to control a circuit O   O       
Measuring voltages with a multimeter             
Define parallel and series connectionsX   O  X  X  
Control current using parallel and series connectionsO   O  XOXO  
Oral presentationXXXXXXXXXXOOO

Note: the Arduino-related skills were excluded, since we’re still in the process of setting up the computers needed to use them.

There was a mix of understanding on the different topics. All of the students showed a basic understanding of how electricity works, with current flowing from high to low electric potential. Many of the students tried to recreate circuits directly from the diagrams given in the student handout of previous activities. These were built with varying degrees of success. It was clear that some students still struggle with how to make electrical connections on the breadboard. This is a topic we’ll review in more detail.

Drawing circuit diagrams also proved challenging. Often students would draw an image of the parts used, rather than the appropriate circuit diagram symbol. There were also many inconsistencies between the physical circuit built and the one drawn by the students. For example, one group connected all of the parts in one single line, when in fact they had build a couple of circuits in parallel on their breadboard. Along with the breadboard review, we will cover circuit diagrams fundamentals in more detail.

Three of the groups really excelled; they successfully built circuits that went beyond what they had seen before, combining concepts from multiple activities. These groups demonstrated a clear understanding of the circuit they’d built.

Activity Materials

Activity 6 has been made as a Free Cultural Work and is available for use and adaption under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license. As per the constraints outlined in Activity 1, the activity does not require consistent access to electricity. The cost of one set of parts2 was $9.22 CAD, and 10 sets were shared across 36 students split into four sessions. This brought the parts-cost per student to $2.56 CAD.

  1. SMD has a nearly equal gender distribution among boarding students, with 175 boys and 174 girls. The gender distribution among the Himalayan Makers Guild members is 25 boys and 37 girls (40%:60%). 

  2. Part details and suppliers are given in the lesson plan.