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Designing And Implementing Chain Reactions: A Study Of Seventh Grade Students’ Knowledge Of Electrical Circuits

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Enhancing K-12 STEM Education with Engineering

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.364.1 - 15.364.13



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Paper Authors


Tirupalavanam Ganesh Arizona State University

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Tirupalavanam Ganesh, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at Arizona State University. He has degrees and experience in engineering, computer science, and education. He has brought this experience to bear in previous research that examined the use of technologies in K-12 settings with diverse students. He has worked with the Children’s Museum of Houston on the development and implementation of Robotics-based STEM programming for urban youth. He is the Principal Investigator of the National Science Foundation Award# 0737616, Learning through Engineering Design and Practice.

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John Thieken Arizona State University

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John Thieken, MEd., is currently a high school mathematics teacher at the Paradise Valley School District and a doctoral student in the PhD in mathematics education at Arizona State University. He has a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Northern Arizona University and a Masters in Secondary Education from Old Dominion University. He is currently involved in doctoral research (Learning through Engineering Design and Practice, National Science Foundation Award# 0737616) where he engages in research methods, measurement, data analysis (quantitative and qualitative), curriculum design, curriculum implementation, and sustainability.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Designing and Implementing Chain Reactions: A Study of Seventh-grade Students’ Knowledge of Electrical Circuits Abstract

This paper describes the implementation and results from the study of a novel teaching and learning experience in K-12 Engineering Education. The specific novel teaching and learning experience focused on a Chain Reaction/Circuits thematic unit. The thematic unit was embedded in a National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored Information Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) project. The project served over 100 students via a highly engaging after-school engineering education program in four middle schools from traditionally under-represented populations.

Seventh-grade students were engaged with the idea of designing a chain reaction after watching the “Cog” a 2003, Honda commercial. Notions of chain reactions such as local actions having global impact were discussed. Students were provided with a variety of technology tools beginning with components for creating a simple circuit (switches, electrical cables, an light emitting diode-LED, buzzers, and a battery pack) and household objects (cardboard, coat hangers, aluminum foil, milk/juice cartons, etc). Students investigated different combinations of the electrical components creating varying types of circuits, progressing to constructing their own homemade switches from the household objects. PICO Cricket kits were introduced and students used the PICO software to program and design intelligent reactions to mechanical actions. Continuing with the PICO Cricket Kits students constructed creations (autonomous art installations) that would respond to stimuli from their surroundings (e.g., sound, movement, touch, and light). Individual and class discussions fortified the relationships between inputs/outputs and chain reactions. Ultimately, the entire cohort engaged in the creation and execution of a large-scale chain reaction (Rube Goldberg Machine). Students were placed into groups of two and given one table. Each group (thus, each table) was connected through wood blocks, when touched would fall into the next wood block, acting as both the group’s table input and table output.

Student learning was assessed1,2,3 through formal and informal methods. Informal assessments consisted of open-ended questioning, demonstrations, teacher observations, and student constructions. Formal assessments consisted of pre- and post-assessments specific to unit content. Analysis of formal assessments utilized two sample dependent t-tests to determine if significant differences existed across pre- and post-assessments. Analysis showed a statistically significant difference between the means for the pre and post assessments; t(74) =8.75, p < .01, Effect Size = 1.13. Suggesting a potential to enhance learning when we engage youth in experiences that emphasize both utilitarian and inquiry-based motivations.

Ganesh, T., & Thieken, J. (2010, June), Designing And Implementing Chain Reactions: A Study Of Seventh Grade Students’ Knowledge Of Electrical Circuits Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16970

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2010 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015