Circuit Board Projects: A Real Life Science Application

Every year, our sixth grade teachers at Fairmont Private Schools – Historic Anaheim Campus teach their students about electrical circuits. To bring the lesson to life, the students are assigned the task of creating their own circuit boards in the form of a “quiz board.”

“The circuit board they create is essentially a question and answer board where underneath their beautiful work is a complicated string of wires that connects the right answers to the questions,” sixth grade teacher Nadia Mudd said.

When a correct answer and question are matched up, a light bulb built into the project lights up, signaling a correct match. The fun quiz boards teach the students how electrons travel and bring the science unit to life.

“The objective is to create an unbroken path for electrons to travel through,” fellow sixth grade teacher Vanessa Patterson said.

The students use a large box, brass fasteners, wire, alligator clip leads (or paper clips), insulation tape, a small lamp or flashlight bulb, batteries, a battery holder, a lamp base, and a screw to make their projects. The elaborate projects are then decorated by the students based on the theme of their quiz.

Wiring the main circuit of the project.

“It’s my favorite project because it allows students to flex their creative muscles and no two boards have even been alike!” Patterson said. “I’ve seen everything from a student recreating the Empire State Building with New York City trivia, to a student shaping a near life-sized shark where the teeth are part of the circuit!”

Mudd’s students have been just as creative, choosing a variety of themed trivia questions over the years.

“Some fun question and answer boards from the past have been “Facts about my Teachers,” Friends trivia, sports trivia, and Disney trivia,” Mudd said.  “A cool thing about it for teachers is we learn what they are interested in and learn 10 facts about it. Usually, the questions have me stumped!”

This year’s themes included: sports, video games, dinosaurs, zombies, and lots of Disney facts. Some were more academic, focusing on our past presidents, Greek mythology, and literature, as student Samantha C. did.

“I chose to do a matching game for books and authors,” said Samantha.  “I chose this because I love to read and I want these amazing authors recognized for their spectacular books.”

While the students loved having a chance to be creative, many of them enjoyed the scientific parts of the project.

One of the more elaborate circuit board projects was built to resemble the Denver Broncos’ football stadium.

“After the science project, I felt proud of myself and that I learned a lot more about circuits and electricity,” said Khiet H.

One student, Sydney L., enjoyed the circuit board project so much she can picture using them in a career.

“I was not very interested in science, but after that project, I feel like I can use future experiences with circuits and wires in my future job,” Sydney said.

Some of the students ran into a few hiccups while working on the project, but used their problem-solving skills to find solutions.

“There were little parts of the project when it was tricky, like screwing in the wires inside the circuit, because it would keep slipping out,” said Brianna V. “I overcame [the problem] by using a pair of tweezers to keep the wires down while I screwed in the nut.”

The help of some patient parents always helps too.

“I learned that teamwork makes the dream work because I managed to finish it with the help of my dad,” said Nathan C.

Bringing their science lesson to life also helped some of the students understand and enjoy science more. Student Amanda B. said she enjoys science, but struggles on tests. After finishing the project she’s found a new excitement for the subject. Rahil L., who previously disliked the subject, has found that science is broad enough that there may be some areas he enjoys after all.

A meme-themed circuit board project.

“Before the circuit, I completely despised science, but now I realize there are many parts and that I enjoy some,” he said.

Some of the students’ found difficulties with the building portion of the project, as Samira M. learned she wasn’t great at cutting wires. Arnold G. had a very unfortunate instance with a short circuit fire that ruined his first build of the project. As a result, his idea of a difficult portion of the project was quite a bit different from his classmates.

“I think the hardest part of the circuit board is to stop it from burning,” Arnold said. “I overcame [this problem] by putting a bottle of water next to me, ready to pour it on the circuit board.”

Though Arnold ran into trouble, this problem is highly rare with the projects and Mudd believes it had to do with his chosen box materials.

A cat themed circuit board project.

“I really am not sure how that happened,” Mudd said about Arnold’s fire. “The circuit is very safe and the wattage is so low, that is really impossible. I am assuming that it was something in his construction of the actual box that happened. That part is their own creative ability. We recommend using a shoe box, but most students get into it and use wood, acrylic glass, and other materials.”

Luckily, Arnold stayed positive after his project was ruined and actually found what he most enjoyed about the project was rebuilding it.

After all of the students’ hard work, they got to show off their projects to family members at Open House and quiz them on some of their favorite subjects.

“I loved watching my younger sister, Ava, exclaim loudly that she had gotten it right every time the light lit up,” said Nicola E.F.R. after seeing her hard work come to life.

Though some ran into trouble, all of the students should be proud of what they built and accomplished. Many of them will take what they’ve learned and apply it to future applications. One student is even inspired to build his own computer. Another student, Stephen M., saw the benefit of understanding the science behind the circuit board project and how science may assist him later.

“I felt like science had to help me with the project,” said Stephen. “I feel like science can help me in the future.”





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