Electrical Circuit Instruction

November 2015  
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Rob Thompson's Automotive Technology Education Newsletter

Welcome to my newsletter.

This newsletter is to share teaching ideas for auto tech instructors and to provide informational updates on what is happening in CT education around the country. 

Laying It All Out

As discussed in previous newsletter issues, and as many automotive instructors know, teaching basic electrical circuit operation and diagnosis can be challenging. In addition to traditional Ohm's Law problems, class discussions, and lab activities, I have students build and test circuits using standard automotive bulbs. Examples of these circuits are shown in Figures 1 - 3

Once students build and test a variety of these circuits, they take a pass/fail test. They have to build and test a series-parallel circuit of their own design, diagram the circuit, test resistance, current flow, and voltage drops correctly with me watching them work. Once complete, they then begin performing tests on school vehicles using lab worksheets to guide them. The main purposes of the circuit building are to get students used to using meters and taking measurements. A second benefit is they can see how series, parallel, and series parallel circuits operate.

Transitioning to working on a vehicle is often where a stumbling block occurs. Students who have little experience with using a DMM usually do not transition easily to making measurements on vehicles and still confuse taking a voltage reading with measuring voltage drop. Additionally, students still may not have a good grasp of how voltage drops affect circuits on the car. To help visualize an actual circuit, I put together a brake light circuit that approximates how it would be on the vehicle. 

Shown in Figure 4, the brake light circuit initially is wired up to work normally. As a class, we go through each part of the circuit, discuss the functions and operation of the components, and use a meter to make measurements. Once familiar with how the circuit works, I introduce several "bugs." Included in the bugs are damaged wires at the switch, two resistors wired in after the switch, and several poor connections at various points, shown in Figure 5.

With the circuit taped to the board, students can easily visualize the circuit and then perform tests at various points to try out diagnosing and fixing various concerns. This usually starts some of the students on developing diagnostic techniques and thinking about how to find and repair electrical problems. 

I've found that providing a circuit like this, and one that is removed from the car, allows students to get a much better idea of how a circuit is constructed, how it operates, and how to perform tests before being expected to tackle real problems on vehicles. 

More to come next month.
Stay Tuned!
Figures 1 - 3
Figure 4
Figure 5

What's going on in auto tech and in education.

Specialty Carmaker Fisker Reborn As Karma Automotive

Toyota Bringing Advanced ITS Technology to Mass-market Models

Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications Are the Next Big Thing in Auto Safety

GM and Tula Technology to Boost V-8 Fuel Economy in Next Few Years

Apple's autonomous auto: is Apple's hidden car project really happening?

1 Critical Way Alphabet Inc's Self-Driving Cars Will Mirror Apple Inc.'s Project Titan

7 out of 13 Top OEMs Work on LiDAR Technology for Automated Driving Passenger Vehicles

The Future of Automotive Lighting is Bright

Congress lays out auto industry reform proposal

Why 75% of electric-car buyers don't buy electric cars

Why Self-Driving Cars Must Be Programmed to Kill

Nissan's prototype Leaf tests new autonomous technology

Auto power play: Japan's hydrogen car vs China's battery drive
Head to my website for PowerPoints, waveform images, and photos that are available for download for instructional use. Recently added are many new mini-lesson PowerPoints, syllabi, and various worksheets.

If you want to use resources shown in this newsletter, links to the lab activities and images can be downloaded and used for instruction from here.

Proud member of the North American Council of Automotive Teachers (NACAT).

NACAT is devoted to automotive education and to the teachers and trainers of automotive technology. 

Join us at the NACAT conference at San Jacinto College in Houston, Texas, July 2016.
Comments, questions, complaints, criticisms? Email me!

Recently added - a blog! Now even more random ramblings are available. See link below.

Visit my website to check out my automotive textbooks available through Cengage Learning.  

Past issues of this newsletter are available from the bottom of the home page.
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