|Circuit Quiz Game:|
Simple project to teach kids about circuitry
by Ben Wheeler
MAKE Magazine vol. 05 p. 129
Arthur C. Clarke's third law states that "any sufficiently advanced
technology is indistinguishable from magic." Clarke's law could use a
corollary: it doesn't take much to be advanced enough to seem
mystical. In fact, advanced tech doesn't impress today's kids, who are
used to every teddy bear and softball being Turing-complete. To dazzle
them you need older technologies like circuitry, which feel magical by
their very simplicity.
Here is a simple project to introduce kids to circuitry. It is a quiz
game, where a light bulb signals that the correct answer has been
selected. The circuit itself is very simple, but with enough
different sections that it's surprising and satisfying to see it work.
The questions can be quickly swapped in and out and rearranged, making
for fast competition, impromptu topics and ridiculing siblings.
Matching questions and answers are attached to a board by paper clips,
which are connected by hidden wires. A light on the board and a
battery behind it are hooked up to two wires that dangle on the front
of the board. By touching one wire to a question and the other to its
matching answer, the circuit completes across the hidden wire behind
the board and the bulb lights.
Circuitry projects are also a great opportunity to teach a child
circuit diagrams and show how the path of electricity maps from
symbols to reality.
circuit diagram isn't necessary to build the actual quiz
circuit, but once finished it is useful to refer back and see which of
the diagram's cryptic symbols have become clear.
All of the circuit components are available at Radio Shack stores or
radioshack.com. A few local hardware stores still carry such things,
but nowadays even Home Depot doesn't stock them.
only need a few special materials.
Time: 30 minutes
total cost: $15
- 6-volt light bulb (Radio Shack catalog #272-1128)
- light bulb base with screw terminals (Radio Shack catalog #272-357)
- 6-volt lantern battery (Radio Shack catalog #23-016)
- wire spool: 20-gauge, insulated (Radio Shack catalog #278-1225)
- duct tape
the base to support the quiz as it stands up, and house the battery
1. Make the board
Use two large pieces of cardboard, one for the quiz board and one for
its stand. To form the stand, cut out two identical trapezoids, about
6" on the top and 9" on the bottom, with sloping sides. Tape them
together along one side and to the bottom of the quiz board to form a
the light. Note that this shows the BACK of the board.
2. Install the light
Cut a small circle from the quiz board to hold the light bulb
base. Also cut two amall slits on either side of the circle. Attach
two wires to the light base (you'll have to strip the insulation from
the ends of all the wires you use). Send one wire through a slit to
the front of the quiz. Screw in a bulb and fit the base into the
3. Install the battery
Put the battery inside the quiz stand. Attach the second wire from the
bulb to the battery's negative terminal. Connect a long wire from the
positive terminal through the other slit to the front of the quiz.
setup. For clarity, only one set of question-answer pairs is shown here.
4. Wire the answers
Make each question-answer wire by wrapping both ends of a wire around
paper clips (make sure the connections are snug). Attach the clips
randomly on alternate sides of the back of the quiz board.
5. Label the quiz
Make paper labels for the quiz questions and answers and place them
under corresponding paper clips.
finished product in action
Ben Wheeler is a math teacher living in Brooklyn, NY.