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Making Connections: Teaching Electricity and Computational Thinking With Circuits

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Explore and create : Creation lab

Terri Eichholz  
Galen McQuillen  

Electricity is the foundation of computer science, but it's rarely taught this way. By starting with circuits, students can scaffold their understanding of the technology that controls, well, just about everything! Educational tools can show students how electricity works, but nothing is quite as satisfying as soldering a circuit.

Audience: Coaches, Library media specialists, Teachers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Topic: Maker activities & programs
Grade level: 6-12
Subject area: Science, STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Create learning opportunities that challenge students to use a design process and computational thinking to innovate and solve problems.
For Students:
Innovative Designer
  • Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
  • Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

We start teaching students about electricity and circuits in elementary school and yet, most students will progress through high school physics without ever actually making one. Soldering irons in the makerspace allows, not only for students to learn about circuits, but embed them into any project. The project-based implications are endless when students are empowered to create with electricity. When these activities are appropriately scaffolded, students will be ready to discover the big beautiful world of physical computing.
In addition to prototyping with paper circuits, teachers will be taught how to use Tinkercad Circuits to prototype their circuits digitally. This takes out the necessity to teach Ohm's Law in order for students to choose correct components for projects.
Project-based learning and service learning will be modeled through sample projects which include making operation games to teach about human body systems and signs for teacher's classrooms.
Attendees will have all the necessary knowledge to design a project of activity integrating electrical circuits. They will have the opportunity to build their own circuits in a variety of ways.


Short introduction including objectives and background. (10 minutes)
Attendees will create a paper circuit and learn the basics of single and parallel circuits. (20 minutes)
Attendees will work in small groups to design a circuit to solve a problem. (10 minutes)
Attendees will create a digital prototype of their circuit using Tinkercad Circuits. (20 minutes)
Attendees will solder their circuit. (25 minutes)
Reflection and evaluation. (5 minutes)

Supporting research

This Is What STEM Looks Like! - The Women's Foundation of Colorado

Association for Middle Level Education: Engaging Girls in STEM

Collins MA, Totino J, Hartry A, Romero VF, Pedroso R, Nava R. Service-Learning as a Lever to Support STEM Engagement for Underrepresented Youth. Journal of Experiential Education. 2020;43(1):55-70. doi:10.1177/1053825919887407

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Terri Eichholz, Engage Their Minds, LLC
Galen McQuillen, SAISD Advanced Learning Academy

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