Introduction: Working in Parallel

Picture of Working in Parallel

The following information is a single lesson in a larger project. Find more great projects here.

Return to Previous Lesson: What's the Buzz on Series Circuits?

Lesson Overview:

Now we'll learn about circuits in parallel!

Step 1: Working in Parallel

Picture of Working in Parallel

In the previous lesson, you learned how to arrange buzzers and LEDs in series.

IN SERIES means that components share a connection at one terminal and current flows through one component, then the next. If you remove one component, all of the components turn off!

As you will see in the next step, components in PARALLEL share a connection at two terminals.

An example device that uses LEDs in series and in parallel is a string of lights!

You might have noticed that if one bulb burns out, a section of lights turn off - but most of them stay on. You will understand why by the end of this lesson.

  1. Press the "next" button below to continue.

Step 2: Drawing a Parallel Circuit

Picture of Drawing a Parallel Circuit

In this step, we can try arranging buzzers and LEDs in parallel.

Notice that the battery and buzzer are already in the Workplane. The (+) and (-) terminals of both modules are aligned.

  1. Open the Modules + menu and drag an LED into the Workplane.
  2. Rotate the LED vertically and place it to the right of the buzzer
  3. Press the "next" button below to continue.

Step 3: Connecting the Parallel Circuit

Picture of Connecting the Parallel Circuit

Now you can connect up your parallel circuit!

  1. Click on the conductive ink pen to select it.
  2. Connect the the positive terminal of the battery to the positive terminal of the buzzer.
  3. Connect the positive terminal of the buzzer to the top foot of the LED.
  4. Connect the negative foot of the battery to the negative terminal of the buzzer.
  5. Finally connect the negative terminal of the buzzer to the bottom foot of the LED.
  6. Press the "next" button below to continue.

Step 4: Simulating Your Circuit

Picture of Simulating Your Circuit

Simulate your circuit to see it come to life!

Click the “Start Simulation” button at the top of the screen and watch what happens.

  1. Start the simulation. Do both components turn on?
  2. Press the "next" button below to continue.

Step 5: Testing Your Circuit

Picture of Testing Your Circuit

Components in parallel share connections between two of their terminals.

In this step, see what happens when you remove a component from the circuit.

  1. Stop the simulation by pressing the "Stop Simulation" button.
  2. Click on the buzzer and drag it away from the circuit.
  3. Click the Start Simulation button again and watch what happens.
  4. Stop the simulation and replace the buzzer
  5. Try dragging the LED away and simulate the circuit again.
  6. Press the "next" button below to continue.

Step 6: Adding Another Component

What can you deduce about components in parallel? (see hint)

Can you figure out how to place one more component in parallel with the rest of the circuit? Instructions are below.

  1. Stop the simulation.
  2. Bring another LED into the Workplane and place it to the left of the other components
  3. Connect the top terminal of the new LED to the top terminal of the first LED.
  4. Connect the bottom terminal of the new LED with the bottom terminal of the first LED.
  5. Simulate the Circuit!
  6. Press the "next" button below to continue.
  7. Stuck? HINT: Only one component needs to be in the circuit in order for it to work.

Step 7: Printing Out Your Circuit

Picture of Printing Out Your Circuit

Your circuit should look similar to the example below, with three components in series.

Try out this circuit using the pen and modules from your kit.

  1. Click the download PDF button in the simulator
  2. Save the PDF to your computer. Print out this PDF, fill in the dotted lines and try out your circuit!
  3. Try removing the buzzer and LEDs one at a time to see what happens.
  4. Press the "next" button below to continue.

Step 8: Making a More Complex Circuit

Picture of Making a More Complex Circuit

We can make more complex circuits that combine modules in series and parallel arrangements.

  1. Click on the conductive lines to select them and press the trash can icon to delete them.
  2. Select the buzzer and drag it back above the battery and LED. Orient it horizontally so the + side is closer to the battery.
  3. Press the "next" button below to continue.

Step 9: Connecting the Circuit

Picture of Connecting the Circuit

Use the conductive ink pen to connect the circuit.

  1. Click on the conductive ink pen to select it.
  2. Connect the battery, buzzer, and first LED in the same way you connected the first series circuit.
  3. Connect one terminal of the LED to the trace between the buzzer and LED.
  4. You can click anywhere on the trace to connect them.
  5. Connect the other end of the LED to the trace between the LED and battery.
  6. Simulate your circuit and watch what happens!

Step 10: Testing the Circuit

Picture of Testing the Circuit

In this step, you'll see what happens when you remove one component at a time.

Can you figure out which components are in series and which are in parallel? (see hint)

  1. Try removing the buzzer and then simulate the circuit. What happens?
  2. Stop the Simulation.
  3. Put the buzzer back and remove an LED. What happens after starting the simulation?
  4. Press the "next" button below to continue.
  5. Stuck? HINT: The two LEDs are in parallel with each other, and the buzzer is in series with both LEDs.

Step 11: Printing Your Circuit

Next, try out this circuit using the conductive ink pen and modules from your kit.

  1. Click the download PDF button in the simulator Save the PDF to your computer.
  2. Print out this PDF, fill in the dotted lines and try out your circuit!
  3. Remember to try removing the buzzer and LEDs one at a time to see what happens.
  4. Press the "next" button below to continue.

Step 12: Understanding the Circuit

Picture of Understanding the Circuit

This circuit illustrates some of the basic parts of all circuits: the branch, node and loop.

You can use a regular pen to mark these circuit parts on your printed template.

  1. Branch: Any single component in a circuit. In this case, each module is a branch.
  2. Node: a place where two or more branches meet.
  3. Loop: any closed loop in a circuit. In other words, a path you can take to get from one node back to itself. For example, try tracing Loop 1 with your finger starting at the top node.
  4. Press the "next" button below to continue.

Step 13: Making a String of Lights

Picture of Making a String of Lights

Let's review what we learned about series and parallel circuits:

SERIES: components share a connection between one terminal each. If one component is removed, they all turn off.

PARALLEL: components share a connection between two terminals each. If one component is removed, the rest stay on.

A string of lights has blocks of LEDs in series, and these blocks are in parallel with each other. If one LED burns out, most of the string stays on!

In your time remaining, try creating the string of lights circuit following the instructions below.

Congratulations on completing your first circuit with multiple loops! In the next lesson you will learn about a special case of LEDs in parallel: the RGB (red-green-blue) LED.

  1. In your time remaining, try replacing the buzzer with two LEDs in series.
  2. Make a string of lights by moving the LEDs around and re-drawing the connections.
  3. Simulate the circuit and try removing one LED at a time.

Next Lesson:See the Rainbow with the RGB LED

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