Island 1 Squishy Circuits
Explore electricity and how it flows using conductive dough. The challenge is to complete the circuit and light an LED using the Squishy Circuits kit.
Squishy Circuits- Circuit Basics
What is Electricity?
Electricity is a type of energy that builds in one place and can flow to another place. The electricity that builds in one place is called static electricity. You may have experienced this type of electricity when you walk across a carpet and then get a sharp shock when you touch a doorknob. When you walk across certain kinds of carpet your body builds up an electrical charge, and when you touch something metal, you give that built-up electricity a place to go. You feel a shock as the electricity flows toward the metal.
The electricity that flows from one place to another is called current electricity or electrical current. We use electrical current to power our appliances, including dishwashers, telephones, and flashlights.
In order for an electrical current to flow, there must be a closed circuit. A closed circuit is a closed path or loop where electrical current can flow. If there is a break anywhere in the path or loop, the electricity cannot flow, and it is called an open circuit. An electrical path can accidentally be broken, or you can use a switch to control the flow of electricity. Therefore, an on-off switch is sometimes called a circuit breaker.
A short circuit occurs when the electrical current does not follow the correct path or circuit. In a normal circuit, there is a power source and wires connecting to a motor or light. The motor or light is called a resistor, and when electricity flows through it, some of it is used up making the buzzer beep or the light glow. Without a resistor, the electricity takes a shortcut and builds up in the wires, which can become very dangerous. In a short circuit, wires can heat up enough to cause a fire or explosion. If you pushed the conductive dough balls to touch in the circuit, the electricity flowing through would skip the LED light and cause a short circuit because the resistor has been left out of the circuit. A short circuit could also happen if you touched the positive and negative battery terminals together.
Conductors and Insulators
Materials such as copper metal wire conduct electricity or allow it to flow freely. Materials that allow electricity to flow freely through them are called conductors. Materials like rubber and plastic that do not allow electricity to flow through them easily are called insulators. Conductors and insulators help us control electricity.
Squishy Circuits does not use wrapped wires for conductors and insulators to help the current travel in the circuit. Instead, special dough is used. Inside the Squishy Circuits kit, there are two types of dough. The colored dough is conductive. It is made with salt which has ions and allows for the electrical current to travel easily. The white dough contains sugar instead of salt and does not have ions. So, electricity does not travel easily through it. Clay can also be used as an insulator because the materials in clay do not have many ions, making it difficult for electricity to travel through it.