Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Voltage in a Circuit

Figure from experiment 21 from Physics Explorations and Projects


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

In the initial observation, students observe a circuit consisting of a single battery and a single resistor/light bulb. A volunteer will measure the voltage across both the battery and the resistor/light bulb. Students predict the result of adding a second battery in series and measuring the total voltage. After observing this, students predict what the voltage would be if one of the batteries were turned around.

Students are provided with a diagram of a series circuit consisting of three batteries and two resistors, as well as supplies to construct circuits (including three resistors—two of the same resistance and another that is different). The students' challenge is to try as many combinations as necessary to understand the relationship between the voltages of the components in a series circuit.

The class should reconvene and discuss their results. Then, students predict the result of replacing one of the resistors present with a resistor of different value. This is followed by a class/group discussion and testing of the predictions.

Learning Outcomes

  • Learn that the supplied electrical potential (i.e., voltage) is shared across resistances in a circuit. In other words, the voltage measured across each component and source in a circuit loop should add to zero.
  • Understand that the sign of the measured voltage is an indication of an increase or decrease of electrical potential.

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

Crosscutting Concepts

  • Patterns
  • Cause and Effect
  • Systems and System Models
  • Energy and Matter

Science and Engineering Practices

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

Experiment 21 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.

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