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1001-C: Series and Parallel Circuits

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1001-C: Series and Parallel Circuits

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When you have only one light bulb, there is only one way to connect it: connect oen side of the bulb to one side of the battery, and the other side of the bulb to the other side of the battery. But when you have two light bulbs, there are two different ways to connect the two light bulbs called series and parallel. In this pod, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of each.

There are three options for completing this lab: with alligator clips, snap circuits, or virtually. If you are completing it in school, use snap circuits or alligator clips. If you are completing it at home, do so virtually, unless you your own snap circuit set or other electrical connections.

Materials
  • One or two batteries in a holder.
  • Two identical light bulbs. They must be in screw-in holders.
  • Four wires with alligator clips
Steps and Questions
  1. Connect a single light bulb to a battery, so that the light bulb lights. For this lab, use two two wires with alligators clips and a light bulb.
  2. Now, connect two light bulbs in a row. This is called a series circuit.
  3. Try unscrewing one of the light bulbs from the series circuit. What happens to the other light bulb?
  4. Now, connect the two different bulbs on two different branches. This is called a parallel circuit.
  5. Try unscrewing one of the light bulbs from the parallel circuit. What happens to the other light bulb?
  6. In which circuit were the light bulbs brighter, series or parallel?
  7. To wire the lights in your house, which type of circuit would you prefer, series or parallel? Explain two reasons why.

Materials
  • Two batteries in a holder.
  • Two identical light bulbs.
  • Several Clip Wires
Steps and Questions
  1. Connect a single light bulb to a battery, so that the light bulb lights. For this lab, use two two wires with alligators clips and a light bulb.
  2. Now, connect two light bulbs in a row. This is called a series circuit.
  3. Pull one of the light bulbs out of the series circuit, but leave everything else intact. What happens to the other light bulb?
  4. Now, connect the two different bulbs on two different branches. This is called a parallel circuit.
  5. Pull one of the light bulbs out of the parallel circuit, but leave everything else intact. What happens to the other light bulb?
  6. In which circuit were the light bulbs brighter, series or parallel?
  7. To wire the lights in your house, which type of circuit would you prefer, series or parallel? Explain two reasons why.

I recommend you select "intro" mode, although you can use either "intro" mode or "lab" mode.

Simulation provided by PHET interactive simulations at the University of Colorado at Boulder

Virtual Materials
  • One or two batteries.
  • Two identical light bulbs. Don't adjust the resistance of the light bulbs, so they are identical.
  • A bunch of wires.
Steps and Questions
  1. Connect a single light bulb to a battery, so that the light bulb lights. For this lab, use two two wires with alligators clips and a light bulb.
  2. Now, connect two light bulbs in a row. This is called a series circuit.
  3. Try deleting one of the light bulbs from the series circuit. Once it is deleted, do not reconnect the wires where it had been. What happens to the other light bulb?
  4. Now, connect the two different bulbs on two different branches. This is called a parallel circuit.
  5. Try deleting one of the light bulbs from the series circuit. Once it is deleted, do not reconnect the wires where it had been. What happens to the other light bulb?
  6. In which circuit were the light bulbs brighter, series or parallel?
  7. To wire the lights in your house, which type of circuit would you prefer, series or parallel? Explain two reasons why.

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