8th graders who have been taking engineering classes at Kepler Tech Lab surprised me when I came prepared to give them all I had, but kids completely changed learning outcomes I was hoping for them. I still wonder why I am using the doughs in any context; they are good and helped me define how much kids can be creative. When I wanted kids in my lab to explore more about electronics projects, I told them we are going to bake doughs and use them in our projects. They were all surprised and shouting that they are going to consume doughs but it was not the case because they konw they do not have to eat and drink from the lab for safety purpose. To be succinct, the projects were about Squishy Circuits using doughs.
What is Squishy Circuit?
“Squishy Circuits uses conductive and insulating play dough to teach the basics of electrical circuits in a fun, hands-on way.” (squishycircuits.com).
Without losing my control describing how our engineering classes are structured, kids work in pairs and they switch teams after two weeks to experience working with diverse groups of fellow students. Since we are preparing them a physical computing curriculum, kids are being trained on how to use computers, performing some typing exercises, and compete for one another playing around with typing games to e familiar with computer keyboard and its Graphics User Interface.
Back to the Squishy Circuits! With Squishy Circuits, I was expecting kids to make resistors and capacitors, which they did, but they ended up making funny things I never thought about. Firstly, they made two different doughs, one conductive and another one insulating with the help of guides adapted from https://squishycircuits.com. The conductive dough was the one which is resistive. After making the conductive dough, it is easy to make resistor out of it. You can simply take a portion of it and use it in a circuit as an actual resistor. Afterwards, kids used an insulating dough as a spacer between two pieces of conductive dough in order to make a capacitor. It worked, but the insulating dough seemed to be conductive, and that was not expected in our experiment, need to explore more.
What happened next!
All nine teams (two kids each team) have completed the first challenge of making resistor and capacitor out of doughs while experimenting with Squishy Circuits. Kids have used Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs and buzzers as loads in their experiments. I was so happy to see their faces smiling and they were pledging that they can do things with doughs they made. My reactions were “sure, the floor is yours, let’s do it!! We shall have an exhibition session to see what each team is going to make.” They started testing out some sort of different things and I was murmuring “what crazy are these kids?” Yes, they were mad explorers, innovators, and tinkerers; see what some of what they’ve just made.
As they were promised to have exhibition in order to show the whole class what they have made, all teams have been asked to bring their creations on one table. Each team got excited about their creation and they inspired me as well.
Lesson learned from this activity: give students the freedom to do anything and keep the time as you assist them throughout designed activities.