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In this problem-based learning activity, you will experiment with a battery and light bulbs to build your own flashlights. The purpose of the activity is to develop understanding of fundamental electrical circuit concepts, including voltage, current, and closed circuits, and to help eliminate common misconceptions.
Development of this material was supported by the Arizona Board of Regents' Learner Centered Education Grant Program, Grant #11BU06.
Instructor information for this module is available here .


The objective of this problem based learning activity is to create several simple electrical circuits with light bulbs and a battery. The purpose of the activity is to introduce you to several fundamental concepts in electrical circuits and identify and correct some potential misconceptions that you may have about electrical circuits.

Lighting one bulb

Suppose you are driving late at night along a dark road and your car suddenly stops. Hoping to figure out what is wrong with the engine, you grab your flashlight and step out of the car, but accidentally drop the flashlight on the the pavement where it breaks into several pieces. You retrieve a battery and a light bulb from the black top. You have a few wires in the glove box leftover from your attempt to install a stereo. Can you use the battery, light bulbs, and wires to create enough light to check your engine?

Preliminary reading

Before beginning the activity, read this description of a light bulb . Pay particular attention to the figure of the light bulb-how is the filament connected to the two contacts?

Additional reading resources

The following resources give additional information about circuits, and you may find them useful and interesting either before or after the problem based learning activity.

Preliminary questions

Before beginning the activity, answer the following questions:

  • On , mark the path that electricity takes through the light bulb.
  • Sketch how you could connect a wire, battery, and bulb to light the bulb.
Discuss your answers with your team.

Cutaway drawing of a lightbulb.


Working in your team, connect the battery and light bulb using wires so that the light bulb is lit. Once you create a working circuit, try disconnecting each wire in your circuit (and then reconnecting it); what happens?

Post-activity questions

  • Sketch your working circuit-how is it different from your initial sketch? Why is it different?
  • What path does electricity take through the light bulb?
  • What path does electricity take through your working circuit?
  • An electrical schematic is a symbolic representation of a circuit. shows schematic symbols for a battery and a light bulb; lines between the symbols represent wires. Drawn a schematic that represents your working circuit.
Schematic symbols for a battery and a light bulb.

Lighting two bulbs

After you successfully light up the bulb, you discover that it is too small to illuminate the engine compartment. You remember that your flashlight had a spare bulb; you eventually locate it and try to create a circuit that generates twice as much light.

Preliminary question

Before beginning this portion of the activity, complete the following preliminary question:

  • Sketch how you will connect wires, the battery, and both bulbs so they both light and provide more light than a single bulb.
Discuss your sketch with your team.


Working in your team, find two different configurations in which the battery, wires, and lights are connected so that both bulbs light. For each configuration,

  • Draw a schematic diagram.
  • Note the brightness of both light bulbs.
  • Measure and record the voltage across the battery terminals.
  • Measure and record the voltage across the two lightbulbs.

Post-activity questions

  • Which configuration provides the larger amount of light? Can you relate this to the voltage across the light bulbs?

Questions & Answers

Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Circuits. OpenStax CNX. Oct 12, 2008 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10589/1.1
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