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Learning About Electronics: How You Can Get Started

Learning About Electronics: STEM Electronics Kits

Your child belongs to a generation born into advanced technology. Compared to those of us who had to live with dial-up connections and CDs before eventually entering the era of the Netflix and Amazons of this world, they will be growing up around even faster and more advanced technologies that have endless possibilities. So if your little one is starting to display an interest in the world around them, it’s a good idea to let them get benefit from learning about electronics.

Learning about electronics will develop skills in problem-solving and experimentation. If you want your child to learn about electronics, then here’s how you can get started.

Get familiar with electronics

Start your child’s journey by using STEM electronics kits that they can tinker with. Invest in educational toys or even breadboards and components to help your little ones get familiar with the basic parts of electronic circuits and devices.

These tools will help them understand the parts that make up basic electronics. Plus, it will allow them to experiment and build their own circuits without causing any damage or harm. Guide them as they create several possibilities for the circuits until they’re confident enough to start experimenting on their own.

Explain how things work

When your child is more comfortable with STEM electronics kits, it is time to introduce them to the more theoretical aspect of the basics of electronics. To make this easier to understand, you can try demonstrating it through the toys they already have, pictures, or even fun craft projects, like light-up plush toys, bookmarks, or greeting cards!

You can use all these to help your child understand one of the basics about electronics, which is the closed-loop. The closed-loop is made up of three components. The first one is the voltage source, which is where the power or the electricity comes from. The voltage source can come in the form of batteries, generators, or power systems. The second component is the load, which is what uses up electricity to be able to accomplish a function. The load can be anything that needs electricity, such as a fan or a LED bulb. The last component in a closed loop is a circuit, which connects the voltage source and the load. The circuit usually comes in the form of copper sheets, which serve as a pathway for electricity to flow.

After you explore these concepts, your child can learn more about different types of circuits, such as open circuits, short circuits, series circuits, and parallel circuits. You should try explaining these concepts by demonstrating how your electronics at home receive power. For example, if you switch on a light bulb, it will create a closed circuit because the electricity flows from the energy source to the bulb, which produces light. If you switch it off, however, it will create an open circuit, which causes the energy to stop flowing.

Know the basics of a circuit

A circuit is a path for electricity to go along (Circuit sounds a lot like a circle and is a great way to remember the word). There are 3 basic components to build a simple circuit
1. a “source” of electrical power, such as a battery or household wall outlet,
2. a conductive “path,” such as wire and,
3. a “load” that needs electrical power to operate, such as a lamp

Can you complete the circuit in the image below and make the LED light up?

*REMEMBER ! – Electricity will only flow when the circuit is closed i.e- the source is connected to the load using the path in a circular manner. It is also important that the circuit is closed in the right way so electricity can move in the right direction from (+) to the (-) side.

circuit

Understand how Breadboard works

Breadboard is the white rectangular plastic board with lots of tiny holes. This board works as a base and allows you to insert wires and electronic components to make a circuit. You can easily remove and reconnect the different parts as you like. As long as you have created a circular path for the electricity to flow through, the circuit will work. You can use and reuse breadboards to make all sorts of fun electronic projects like this tilt-activated nightlight.

Breadboard

Most breadboards have numbers, letters and signs (+ and -) written on them. They will help you locate the holes so you can follow the instructions when you are building your own circuits. The letters are on the columns and numbers are along each row. For example, A15 is the hole where column A meets row 15.
The breadboard is made up of sets of 5 metal clips connected to each other. Columns A-E and columns F-J are electrically connected along each row. For example, Hole A1, B1, C1, D1 and E1 are all connected to each other. But they are NOT connected to F1, G1 holes or to the holes in the next row i.e A2, B2 or F2, G2.

Build a simple circuit using a Breadboard !

1. Insert batteries into the battery holder.

2. Insert  (+ side) into H25. Insert the other end (- side) into B25.

3. Insert one end of wire in A25 and other end into A7

Build a Circuit

4. Connect resistor: Insert the ends into B7 and G13

Build a Circuit

5. Insert short leg of LED in H13 and long leg (+) into H16

Breadboard Circuit

6. Insert the shorter wire into J16 and J25

The circuit is complete and the LED should light up!

Basics Electronics Definitions

We live in a world where technology is being upgraded day by day. But do you have any idea how these tech gadgets work?
Have you ever wondered how a solar calculator works even if its battery is dead? Or how the electrician selects the perfect switch that must be installed for a particular load? To find these answers, let’s learn about electronics today.

To begin our discussion, let’s first understand the types of material that are available, and what types of material we can use in building our electric circuit. Then we will explain some basic definitions that we use in electronics.
As we know, there are many materials available on the earth, but not every material can be used for building electric circuits. Materials that can are classified into conductor and insulator.

Conductor

Conductors are materials which allow electric current to pass through. The word “conductor” itself defines its function. For example, copper, iron, aluminum, and silver are good conductors of electricity. These metals have the ability to conduct electric current because their atoms have free electrons in their outermost orbit.

Conductor
Credit: Top cable

Insulator

An insulator does not allow electric current to pass through it. Plastic, rubber, and wood are insulators. These materials block the flow of electric current because their atoms do not have free electrons in their outermost orbit.

Insulator

Electric Circuit

A closed loop through which electrons flow when a power supply is connected to the loop.

Electric circuit
Credit: ck12.org

Electric Current

The flow of electrons from one terminal of a power supply to another terminal.
The direction of the flow of electrons is from the negative terminal to the positive terminal of the power supply, but the direction of the flow of electric current is from the positive terminal to the negative terminal. This is because everything flows from higher potential to lower potential. So, after the development of electron theory, this electric current was renamed “conventional electric current.”

The unit of electric current is Ampere. It is denoted by “A.”

Electric current
Credit: blendscape.com

Electric Power Source

Does simply connecting wires together in a circuit generate electric current? Of course not.
We need an electric power source which will push the electrons through the circuit and generate the current.
These powers are available in two states:

1. AC Power: AC (alternating current) is a standard form of electricity that we get in our homes. All appliances, such as air conditioners, refrigerators, fans, and televisions, use AC power. These appliances cannot work on a battery.
It is called “alternating” because the graph of the current forms a wave. In one half cycle the current is positive, and then it becomes zero at one point, and then on the other half the current is negative.

AC power
Credit: veichi.org
AC Power
We can observe the phenomenon of AC using a mobile phone camera. Open the camera and turn on expert mode. Then point the focus of the camera on a lightbulb and decrease the shutter speed slowly until you see fluctuation in the light of the bulb. This fluctuation that you observe is due to the alternating current. Image Credit: PNG All

2. DC Power: DC (direct current) is a form of electricity converted from AC. We can store DC power in a battery so it can be used to power remote devices like mobile phones, watches, and electric vehicles.
The name “direct” is given because of its waveform, which is either only positive or only negative.

The unit of measure of AC or DC power is volt and it is denoted by “V.”

DC
Credit: WAZI POINT

Electric Load

An electric load is a device that consumes electric power. Electrical loads are of two types:
a. DC powered electrical load
b. AC powered electrical load

a. DC powered electrical load: A DC powered load takes DC power as its input energy. LED bulbs, DC fans, toy motors, TV remotes, wrist watches, and wall clocks are DC powered electrical devices. These loads have one property in common: they all have resistance. Resistance is the property of a material that resists (slows down) the flow of electrons. This slow down results in a loss of energy from the electrons.

 

Similarly, an LED bulb glows when the electron slows down in the load, resulting in a loss of energy. This loss of energy allows the bulb to glow.

The unit of resistance is ohm and it is denoted by “.”

The resistance of a load depends on the types of material used in the load, temperature, and dimensions of the material used.
The resistance of a conductor is much lower than the resistance of an insulator.

Resistance can be thought of as a straight road that has a lot of speed bumps. When a vehicle approaches the speed bumps, the driver slows down the vehicle. The application of brakes results in a loss of energy in the form of heat.

b. AC Powered electrical load: An AC powered load takes AC power as its input energy. In the USA the standard AC voltage for domestic purposes is 110 V. A fluorescent lamp, ceiling fan, air conditioner, and refrigerator are AC powered electrical loads.
Besides resistance, AC powered loads also have the properties of inductance and capacitance. Inductance is a property of a material that is only developed when AC power is fed into it. The inductance of an electrical conductor opposes any change in electrical current flowing through it.
Capacitance is the ability of a material to store charges.

OHM’S law

In a DC powered circuit, Ohm’s law gives us the relationship between electrical current, voltage, and resistance.
Certain conditions are to be followed before applying Ohm’s law in any given circuit:
1. Ohm’s law is only applicable in DC powered circuits because Ohm’s law is only the relationship between resistance, voltage, and current. In an AC circuit we also have inductance and capacitance, so Ohm’s law can not be applicable.
2. The temperature of the circuit should be constant. This is because the resistance of a load varies with temperature, and when we are applying Ohm’s law, we keep the resistance of the load constant.

Statement of OHM’s law

The current flowing in a DC circuit is directly proportional to the applied voltage in the circuit when the temperature is kept constant.

                                    V α I

To remove the proportional sign, we need to add a constant term, and we already know the resistance of the load is kept constant when Ohm’s law is applied.

          So,                  V = IR

Credit: Circuit Basics

Question time

Calculate:
a. The resistance of the circuit in the voltage-current relation shown in the graph.
b. The value of resistance at points P, Q, and T respectively.

Question

Experiment with more advanced projects

Once your child understands the basic concepts of STEM electronics kits, you can help satisfy their curiosity even more and expand their knowledge by moving onto more advanced projects.

They can start by learning how to solder or how to use transistors. From here, older kids, and those who are a little more advanced, can start looking into what a PCB is. Found in most modern devices today, PCBs, or printed circuit boards, are a type of electrical circuit with all its components contained within a mechanical structure. Kids with more advanced knowledge can even start by designing their own PCBs! They can also start to use microcontrollers, which help control the functions of an electronic device. With all this knowledge in mind, your child can explore different possibilities through their own motors, robots, and other electronics.

Check out our Tilt Activated Night Light Kit and build your own first electronics kit!

 

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