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Turn it on - an Electrical Switches Session


This lesson plan is based on using electrical switch workboards to teach the class. Plan on the participants working in no more than groups of 3. Otherwise you may loose the interest of some of the participants as they will not be able to actively participate in the class.

Class Work Boards: "Switch" Boards teaching tool
(click thumbnails for larger image)

The photos are pictures of the board used to teach electrical switch basics. Teams used alligator clip leads to connect different types of switches to understand how they work.

Simplified Lesson Plan

  • Instructor Introductions
  • Explain what a switch is
  • Define some of the terms used in describing switches.
  • Go through some very basic switches using pictures and examples. Use knife switches to demonstrate Poles and Throws
    • SPST
    • SPST (Momentary NO)
    • SPST (Momentary NC)
    • DPDT
    • Show pictures of a few specialty switches
  • Make a clothes pin switch
  • Pass out the Switch Work boards and workbooks. Explain what they should do.. Walk them through the first example.
  • Recap and Cleanup

Supplies required

Prep Work

  • Electrical Switch wiring diagram workbooks (one per team). Sample of one page.
  • Check the batteries, connections and lights
  • Put 10 alligator clips and a magnet (for the magnetic switch) in small containers.
  • Bag up supplies for the clothespin switches
  • Make a workbook of sample wiring tasks for the team to try (See Instructor hint below)

Instructor Hint 1: If you have pictures or actual devices that teams have built using different switches bring them for the teams to see.

Instructor Hint 2: The first time we taught this class we used Power Point slides that showed wiring diagrams for connecting a switch a certain way and and asked the groups to match them. There were several problems with this. Some younger students had trouble translating the wiring diagram on the projection screen to the board in front of them and we also had some students that worked much faster than others resulting in some bored students as they waited for the next slide. The next time we taught the class we printed up workbooks of wiring diagrams and gave them to each group of students. We let the teams work through the workbooks at their own pace while the instructors walked around assisting when necessary. At the end of the workbook we included a list of things for the teams to try without including a diagram of how to wire it. We also included an answer "key" at the back to give them a place to look for instructions if they were unable to complete any of the test circuits. Click for sample pages based on the above board. Make up your own sheets that follow your switch boards, print them in color, laminate them or put them into plastic slip folders and then gather them up into small three ring notebooks.

Class Project: Make a Clothes Pin Switch (click the image for a larger version)

Have teams construct a switch using a clothes pin with bolts, nuts and washers. There is no need for every participant to make a switch. Plan on one switch for every 3 participants.

The switch works as a Momentary Normally Open Switch and a Momentary Normally Closed Switch. Use alligator test leads, batteries and a light to show how the switch works. If you elect to build the Switch Boards then teams can test their switch using the connections on the boards. The switch can also be used as part of the project board in the electrical wiring class.  Instructions for building the clothespin switch.

Instructor Hint: If you are making the clothes pin switches note that third and fourth grade students may have trouble assembling the tiny bolts and nuts. You may want to preassemble 1/2 of the switch for the younger teams so that it doesn't take as much class time.