Introduction: Kirchoff's Game

About: I teach electronics.

The Boring Background:

Teaching electronics is difficult because much of it is conceptual and can be hard to grasp. One of those difficult electronics topics include Kirchoff's Laws (the Voltage and Current laws, with acronyms KVL and KCL respectively). I will skip teaching KVL and KCL in this Instructable, and leave that for the reader to Google. Instead I will cover a great Kirchoff's Game.

I found this promising classroom game by retired physics teacher John Coenraads on his website up in Ontario Canada ( and I used it with good success as a dual enrollment professor with my Career and Technical Center class with 16 and 17 year old high school juniors. I wanted to write this Instructable with instructions for the steps that I followed, the results, and thoughts for future improvement.

Thanks also go to the other teacher in this class, the high school Mechatronics instructor Paul Lathrop, the adult shown in the pictures below. He was the one who took the time to teach and assess students the basics of series and parallel resistance calculation - without which the Kirchoff's Laws lessons and game would not have been meaningful. That is pretty much the way he and I tag-team with these students.

OK, enough of the boring stuff - on to the game!

Step 1: The Game Tiles

The game is played with tiles, like Scrabble. Before class, the teacher will have to print them out (preferably in color) and cut them into their individual pieces.

Game pieces are square tiles representing electric circuit components





Step 2: Setting Up Teams

Rather than have individual students play the game, I decided to set up teams to keep the pace of the play moving faster. That means I had to create an entire set of tiles for each team.

Here you see I am shuffling the tiles, before putting them into individual team envelopes. I gave each team an "electronics-sounding" name, and also wrote the name on the back of each tile for later cleanup and scoring.

Step 3: Teams Take Turns Placing Game Pieces

Each team gets to choose a random 6 pieces

Teams take turns adding as many tiles to one existing or new circuit that they want.

This sequence of photos shows Team 1 making their first move by using 4 game pieces.

Step 4: Other Teams Can Check If It Is a Valid Circuit

The circuit created by the newly placed game pieces is valid if it...

  • has no short circuits (open circuits are OK)
  • each bulb having the specified current through it according to KVL
  • each bulb having the specified voltage across it according to KVL

Step 5: Challenging and Scoring

Opposing teams can challenge if they feel the circuit is invalid. If the challenge is upheld, the game pieces must be removed, but if the challenge is overturned, the challenging team loses their turn.

Scoring is done by adding the power of the bulbs just added. In the example, a total of 24 points (or 24 Watts) were earned.

Step 6: Remaining Rules of Game Play

Teams replace their tiles from their shuffled envelope, so that they always have a total of 6 game pieces.

We also included the game pieces of "switch" and "fuse" with the special rules noted in these images, but they did not add much to the overall game play, and I probably wouldn't use them in future iterations.

The game is finished when a team no longer has enough tiles in their envelope to replace all of their played tiles. At that moment, the game is stopped and the winner is tallied.

Step 7: How It Went in Real Life

We had a good number of students in the classroom, and were able to create 4 large teams of up to 5 students each. You can see the students, grouped into teams by proximity of seating, and also the final scores of the teams at the end of game play, with "Team mu" being the clear winner. You can also see the final circuits they constructed.

Advice for future games:

I think the "Switch" and "Fuse" game pieces can be skipped because the pace of the game with such a large number of students turned out to be a bit too slow. In the next iteration, I would increase the number of bulbs, and perhaps increase the number of game pieces a team gets each turn.

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