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Peer Review

Web-Based Interactive Circuit Simulator for Introductory Physics

by George Watson


Overall Numeric Rating:

4 stars
Content Quality: 4 stars
Effectiveness: 4 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: Aug 09, 2007 by Physics
Overview: This is a simulation designed to show the operation of simple DC circuits. It provides a simple PC board on which the user can place resistors and batteries selected from a parts bin. They are wired together using segments of wire clipped from a spool. Read outs of current, voltage, and resistance values for circuit components are available.
Type of Material: Simulation
Recommended Uses: In class demonstrations or homework assignments.
Technical Requirements: Requires Macromedia's Flash Player
Identify Major Learning Goals: Understanding the way different configurations of batteries and resistors affect the current and voltage in a circuit.
Target Student Population: This simulator could be used effectively in classrooms from eighth grade through introductory college electronics courses.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Other than being able to use a mouse, no knowledge or skills are necessary to use this application. However, students should be familiar with the definitions of basic electrical quantities and be aware of Ohm's law. Some explanation of series and parallel circuits will probably also be needed.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: The graphics in this simulation are excellent. A good selection of resistors is available as well as a choice of batteries. In the case of the latter, the battery pack images are matched to the voltage level. The latter can be operated in either ideal mode for pedagogical simplicity or with internal resistance for greater realism. Although the PC board is very simple, it is sufficient for construction of a number of different circuits illustrating the effect of resistor combinations.
Concerns: The simulation does not address measurement issues at all. Values for current, voltage, and resistance are displayed by simply clicking on components. Students therefore receive no cues as to how the values are actually obtained in practice. The only available circuit components are batteries and resistors.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: This simulation is sufficiently flexible to allow the construction of a wide variety of assignments. Its overall look and feel should be highly effective in engaging and holding students' interest. Overall, it is an excellent simulation of a simple laboratory.
Concerns: As noted above, this simulation does not address the issue of how current and voltage measurements within a circuit are made.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: The simulation is very intuitive in its operation. In addition, excellent instructions for its use are provided. These are available in either text format or in audio form. Macromedia Flash is a good format for this simulation because it is readily available.
Concerns: None noted.