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Circuits and Our Environment (Resource Exchange)

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Pre-college Engineering Education Division Technical Session 12

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Elise Rodich University of St. Thomas

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Studying mechanical engineering with a minor in materials science at the University of St. Thomas.

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Deborah Besser P.E. University of St. Thomas

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Dr. Besser, PE, ENV SP, holds a PhD in education and MS and BS in civil engineering. Currently, she is civil engineering chair and Center for Engineering Education director. Previous experience includes faculty positions in diverse universities where she has taught a variety of coursework including steel, timber, concrete and masonry design, construction, engineering economy, engineering graphics and engineering education. Prior to teaching, Dr. Besser, a licensed engineer, was a design engineer with HNTB-CA, where she worked on seismic retrofits and new design of high profile transportation structures.

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AnnMarie Thomas University of St. Thomas

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AnnMarie Thomas is a professor in the School of Engineering and the Opus Colluege of Business at the University of St. Thomas where she is the director of the UST Center for Engineering Education. Her research group, the Playful Learning Lab, focuses on engineering and design education for learners of all ages.

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Circuits and Our Environment is a STEAM lesson about how circuits function in the environment around them. The lesson is focused on teaching a basic understanding of circuitry and applying that knowledge using common household items. It also has a focus on making engineering concepts seem less abstract and more applicable. Students are taught about electricity and the requirements of a full circuit, as well as being taught how electricity functions in conductive materials and what makes them conductive. This is taught in two different ways, both through conductive dough circuits and “scrappy” circuits made with cardboard. The students are given a basic lesson on circuits and a recipe which they use to create their own conductive dough. This portion of the lesson focuses on the conductivity of basic materials. Another option for this lesson involves given cardboard, a cell battery, binder clips, and an LED. The students are then encouraged to create a circuit using the materials they were given and the properties that they already knew about those materials. That part of the lesson focuses on using what they know about conductivity to create a circuit that mimics circuits they might find in household appliances or other gadgets they would recognize from the world around them. This lesson works to make it easier for students to recognize applications of engineering in everyday surroundings, and also worked to increase student’s awareness of how electricity functions in the world and what electricity can do. By teaching basic circuitry, students are given a better understanding of electrical engineering, and experimenting and creating their own examples of circuits helps them understand and apply the basic problem-solving skills that engineering helps to build. The lesson is heavily influences by several faculty members, students, and partners using numerous source materials.

Rodich, E., & Besser, D., & Thomas, A. (2020, June), Circuits and Our Environment (Resource Exchange) Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34283

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