Snap Circuits Green Alternative Energy kit from Elenco has over 100 activities for exploring electric circuits and how to produce power from renewable sources. The Snap Circuits concept is such a great one for introducing circuits to children. Instead of wires, alligator clips, and battery holders, or breadboards, the Snap Circuit kits come with a plastic grid with knobs. All the electrical components have holes that snap onto the knobs. Connections are made with plastic snap connectors of different lengths. This removes one of the issues of working with electric circuits with children.
Safety note: Be sure to explain safety precautions to children. These experiments involve electricity and heat. Eye and skin protection should be used. When using an electric light, such as 100-watt incandescent bulb or halogen, be careful as you experiment they can produce enough heat to burn your skin or the solar panel.
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The plastic grid and the straight connectors in this alternative energy kit help children visualize the circuit for drawing circuit diagrams. After working with Snap Circuits Green, graduating to building circuits from diagrams with normal electrical components is a “snap”! 😉
Snap Circuits Green comes with a rechargeable battery, a hand crank, solar cell, capacitor, red and yellow LED lights, electrodes for liquid experiments, motor, wind turbine, multimeter, radio, switches, and clock. Two books are included: one explains renewable or alternative energy, the other is handbook for building circuits with the kit. The project directions are illustrated and tell you exactly what to do.
We added questions to be answered with the projects to encourage more exploration by the children. Four children could share one kit if they are given roles to keep everyone involved. Remember, the person with the tools has the power! I’m presenting here a set of activities that should take about an hour.
Instructions for snap circuits green kit
Brainstorm with students about circuits and how they work. Probe students for their ideas about how electricity flows in a circuit and how it electricity is measured. Discuss some ways to represent circuits visually.
Complete the following projects in the Snap Circuit kit by reading all explanations and instructions then building the circuits according to the manual. Answer each question for the projects as you finish each circuit. Pay close attention to the images in the manual when building your circuit, make sure arrows of your circuit pieces match those of the pieces in the image as well as the switch setting on the meter (5V, 0.5mA, 50mA).
If your battery begins to lose power, you can use project 1 to hand crank or project 3 to use the solar panel to charge the battery.
- Project #14 Electric circuit: Build a circuit with the battery, switch, and red LED. How does the flow of electricity compare to water flow in pipes? Draw a circuit diagram of this circuit.
- Project #15 Close the door: Build a circuit with the battery, two switches, red LED, and yellow LED. When you build the circuit and switch the slide switch to the left what happens? As you press the button switch is the circuit open or closed? Draw the symbol for: OPEN switch (Off) and CLOSED switch (On). What are the possible ways to light the LEDs? Explain.
- Project #17 Voltage & current: Build a circuit with the battery, button switch, and multimeter (5V setting). What is the power (in watts) of the circuit if the current is 2 amps and the voltage is 3.5 volts?
- Project #18 Light emitting diode: Build a circuit with the battery, multimeter (50 mA setting), red and yellow LEDs, and both switches. Measure the current through each LED. Switch the multimeter to 5V and measure the voltages for each LED. What differences did you notice between the Red LED and the Yellow LED? What does LED stand for? Research to find out more about how LEDs work.
- Project #19 Resistors: Build a circuit with the battery, both switches, multimeter, and pivot stand with resistors. Set the multimeter as directed for each resistor. Measure the current through each resistor. Why does each resistor allow a different current through? What is wrong with this statement – “47Ω resistor has a higher resistance than a 10KΩ resistor because 47 is a higher number than 10K”. What does a resistor do to the flow of current through a circuit?
- Project #22 Capacitor: Build a circuit with the battery, multimeter, both switches, and red LED. Once you make the circuit, what happens to the LED and the multimeter when you flip the switch back and forth between positions B and C? Why does the multimeter show a decrease in current when the switch remains in position C for 3 seconds? What is the role of a capacitor? Could a capacitor be used to store energy from a solar panel or a wind turbine? Follow the directions to measure discharge current.
- Project #31 Battery load: Build a circuit with the battery, multimeter, slide switch, motor with fan, red and yellow LEDs, and hand crank. Find the voltage of the circuit with switch at position C. Find the voltage with switch at position B. What happens if the battery in the circuit is a weak battery (low on charge)?
If some children need more to do, projects 81, 82, and 83 extend the circuit work into using the solar panel to recharge the battery and power the clock and LEDs.
- Snap circuits green alternative energy kit
- Rechargeable battery
- Snap connector wires
- LED lights
- Desk lamp or shop light
- 100-watt incandescent bulb or halogen desk lamp
- paper or notebook for recording results, pen
What is the science?
Content: electricity, electric circuits, electromagnetic radiation, light, photovoltaic cell, semiconductors, light emitting diodes, hydro power, wind power, alternative energy
An electric circuit has wires, components, and a power source in a closed path that allows electricity to flow. A switch is a component of a circuit that can interrupt or change the flow of electricity. Current is electrons flowing between two points having a difference in voltage. A resistor is a device that creates resistance to current flow in a circuit. A capacitor has two metal plates with a separation and can store electricity. Voltage is also known as electric potential and measures the work that has to be done to move a quantity of charge around the circuit.
- General Lab Safety resources from Flinn Scientific. Be sure to check out the Student Safety Contract.
- Snap Circuits products from Elenco
- Electricity and Magnetism from HyperPhysics at Georgia State University
- Pdf of Energy Infobook from need.org. Great explanations of renewable and non-renewable energy sources.
Let’s talk story
Thanks to my colleagues Erik Schettig, Tom Nudell, Jorge Pacheco, Judy Sisouvong, and Melaine Rickard for their work on this activity. So many activities can be done with this kit. Children really like the appealing design of the components. The kit provides an easy, friendly introduction to electricity. So many children have not had a chance to explore electricity at home or even at school, I love having a good way to start that exploration!
I’ll be looking for comments below, or contact me at lisa [at] thecasabouquet[dot]com.