Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Conservation of Charge

Figure from experiment 20 from Physics Explorations and Projects


The goal of this activity is for students to develop an understanding of how current behaves in a circuit involving resistors in both series and parallel configurations.

In the Preliminary Observations leading up to this investigation, students should be shown several situations that are intended to build conceptual understanding and counter specific misconceptions by adding light bulbs, in series or in parallel, to a simple circuit consisting of a battery and single light bulb.

With this as background, students are challenged to develop a conceptual model for how current behaves in a circuit with multiple paths. This model should be confirmed with data in a test circuit.

Students will then design and execute an experiment to determine the nature of current flow in simple circuits.

Learning Outcomes

  • Understand that moving charge (i.e., current) is conserved in a circuit. At every junction, the current flowing in is equal to the current flowing out.
  • Learn that adding resistance in parallel serves to reduce the combined effective resistance by adding pathways for current.
  • (Extension only) Understand what is meant by the term "short-circuit."

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.

Option 1

Option 2

Additional Requirements

You may also need an interface and software for data collection. What do I need for data collection?

Next Generation Science Standards

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • PS3.A Definitions of Energy
  • PS3.B Conservation of Energy an Energy Transfer
  • PS3.C Relationship Between Energy and Forces

Crosscutting Concepts

  • Patterns
  • Cause and Effect
  • Systems and System Models
  • Energy and Matter
  • Influence of Science, Engineering and Technology on Society and the Natural World
  • Scientific Knowledge Assumes an Order and Consistency in Natural Systems

Science and Engineering Practices

  • Developing and Using Models
  • Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
  • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
  • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Experiment 20 from Physics Explorations and Projects Lab Book

<i>Physics Explorations and Projects</i> book cover

Included in the Lab Book

Vernier lab books include word-processing files of the student instructions, essential teacher information, suggested answers, sample data and graphs, and more.

Buy the Book

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