Electrical engineers work with anything that carries electricity. They are responsible for designing many of the things you use every day (computers, cell phones, etc.)
In this activity, students will take on the role of an electrical engineer and explore the concept of open & closed circuits. They will use simple materials to design and build a Circuit Maze.
The 3D printed parts were designed in Tinkercad, but many different 3D modeling programs should work well for this. There are a few examples included in the Thing Files.
Prompt students to design their own 3D Printed Circuit Enclosure - see sample below.
The object is for students to design a maze out of conductive material (maze material) that you can navigate with a conductive object (maze navigator). The goal is to not touch the material as you pass it through the navigator. If you do, a light (or sound) should signal that the circuit has been closed. The bulk of the circuit should be housed within a 3D printed custom circuit enclosure.
See additional info in Handouts attached in the Thing Files.
Students should walk away with knowledge of:
- Basic circuit design
- Creating a proper circuit diagram
- Designing and building a custom enclosure using 3D printing
Skills Learned (Standards)
- HS-PS3-3 Design, build, and refine a device that works within given constraints to convert one form of energy into another form of energy.
- MS-ETS1-1 - Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
- MS-ETS1-2 - Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
- MS-ETS1-3 - Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
- MS-ETS1-4 - Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.
- Have students gather all of their project materials
- I had students work in groups of 2 on this project.
2. Provide PROMPT (also on Student Handout):
The object is to design a maze out of your Maze Material (some conductive material) that you can navigate with your Maze Navigator (paperclip, or similar conductive object). The general goal is to have other students play your game by moving the Maze Navigator through the maze without touching the Maze Material (try to make it difficult, but not impossible).
However, if they do touch - a sound, light, or some other device should signal that the circuit has been closed. There are many different ways you can interpret this prompt, get creative! See a few examples in the pictures above.
3. Review Requirements for Project
See Student Handout for Maze Requirements and Flyer Requirements
4. Review Sample projects & Project Timeline:
- DEMO Circuit Maze - build your own or show the pictures/videos above.
- See more in References section below.
5. Working sessions - Building the Mazes:
- I allotted 3 in-class working days to this project (and an additional 2 days if students needed to finish their design at home or after school)
- Make sure to emphasize the multiple ways that students can build mazes and still fulfill the Maze Requirements
- As students finish their circuit design, they should begin considering how they are going to build their enclosure to house their circuit, taking any necessary measurements of their power source, connectors, LED's, etc.
6. Working sessions - Building the Circuit Enclosure:
- This can be done with many materials, but I prompted students to design and 3D print a custom enclosure for their circuit.
- Students should try to house the majority of their circuit within and enclosure, though there will likely be some wires, LEDs, etc. that live outside of the enclosure.
- I used Tinkercad to design the sample enclosure, see screenshot below.
7. Flyers and Final Presentations:
- Students should create a flyer describing the rules of their maze and a proper circuit diagram of their circuit design (see Student Handout for more detailed info on requirements).
- Finally, students present their designs and take turns trying each other's mazes!
Optional: Prototype Circuit Design in Autodesk Circuits
Autodesk Circuits is an awesome free program that allows you to prototype and simulate circuit designs before actually building them. For students interested in exploring more complex circuit designs for this project, it could be a great tool to help them discover and test their ideas.
Testing out a circuit design in Autodesk Circuits
Designing a Custom 3D Printed Circuit Enclosure in Tinkercad
- Conductive “Maze Material” - for creating the maze boundaries: Ex) Non-insulated wire, metal hanger, tin foil, copper tape
- Conductive “Maze Navigator” Ex) Paperclip, nail, tin foil-wrapped pen
- Base Material: Ex) Cardboard box, foam board,
- Wire – for creating circuit
- Use wires with alligator clips (or a breadboard) to avoid the need for soldering
- Light or Buzzer – for signaling when the circuit is complete: Ex) LED, simple buzzer, etc.
- CAUTION!! – Teacher should double check circuit design BEFORE connecting battery or power supply
- 3D Printed Circuit Enclosure - a custom enclosure built to house the main parts of the circuit design. More instructions on this below.
Grading Rubric attached in the Thing Files, along with Student Handout.
Sample Circuit Maze Design - Review with students as they begin this project.
Red Light = Loser :(
Green Light = Winner!