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

Physics Explorations and Projects

See other experiments from the lab book.

1Constant Motion and Changing Motion
2Balanced Forces and Unbalanced Forces
3Gravitation on Earth
4Newton’s Second Law
5Projectile Challenge
6Impulse and Momentum
7Equilibrium of Forces
8Circular Motion
9Conservation of Momentum
10Egg Protection Challenge
11Springs Making Things Move
12Kinetic Energy and Mass
13Work and Kinetic Energy
14Work Done by Gravity
15Energy in Collisions
16Rube Goldberg Machine
17Charge and Charge Models
18Coulomb's Law
19Measuring Electric Current
20Conservation of Charge
21Voltage in a Circuit
22Battery Challenge
23Magnetic Field of a Current
24Current from a Changing Field
25Generating Electricity
27Wave Speed on a String
28Speed of Sound
29Interference and Diffraction
30Sound and Loudness
31Wave Communication Challenge
32Energy Storage in Capacitors
34Heat as Energy Transfer
35Solar Cells
36Rube Goldberg Machine Revisited

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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