Sunday, April 19, 2015

An Inquiry in Creating Models with Soft Circuits ~ Step 1

Today I worked on creating a model demonstrating my understanding of a food web using eTextile materials. This is part of a professional inquiry I'm involved with.

I have one more problem to solve -- "What should I use for an power source that will power my model, which consists of 4 LED's connected in serial?" Each LED is used to symbolize "life" at each level of the food web.

I chose to use a serial circuit, because in my model the electricity flows directly from one item to the next in my food web chain, releasing enough energy to light each consecutive LED in the chain. While creating this model, one of the problems I had to solve was that as soon as I put more than one LED in the model, I could no longer use the Coin Cell battery as a source of power. I switched power sources, but as soon as I added a 4th LED, the nine volt battery no longer powered my model. Argh!

If I had created the model using a parallel circuit, I would not have had a problem providing power to the 4 LEDs that represented life in my algae blossom, worm, smelt, and trout, but the energy flow would no longer represent my mental model of the food web.

After a bit of Internet research, I discovered a site called Battery University, which lead me to my current solution -- connecting my 3 volt coin cell battery to my 9 volt battery in serial to provide my model with enough energy to keep each of my organism's LEDs alive. Obviously the LED use 3 volts each.

The problem I have now is that this is not a elegant solution for such a small eTextile project. But the alternative, working with parallel circuits would not model the flow of energy I want for this project. I'll keep working through this design challenge, but meanwhile I have a new resource to share with ANYONE who needs to bridge their 'experience gaps' with battery technology. Check out Battery University. Turns out there is a lot to know -- along with being filled with great free information, the site sells a 328 page book on the topic! Who knew there was so much to know about batteries. But suddenly I have a desire to know more! Which proves one of my points for creating the model in the first place -- when providing students with the opportunity to CREATE and MAKE, lots of unexpected, just in time learning happens, that yield to more questions, and more problem solving!

I still have lots of questions (for myself, and others) about the role of soft circuits in creating models. But I do have a lot more tools in my toolbox now than I did before I started this 'inquiry". Any suggestions welcomed (on either the battery problem or my current professional inquiry).

"How can soft circuits be used to help students develop models in science education? "
One of the reasons this interest me is that I believe soft circuits are a good entry point to bridging the experience gap that many of us have about the way electronics work. Finding more ways for students to gain the experience, knowledge and skills to use these tools effectively would provide our students with new ways to solve problems in the world around them. This type of confidence might encourage more students to take on challenges in their education and careers, that many are currently avoiding.

Post a Comment