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Circuits for Physical Science shows children how to build and understand electrical circuits on a computer before they work with actual electrical parts. The program offers students the opportunity to study various types of circuits and gives them instructions so they can explore the effects of manipulating portions of these circuits. Students can also explore circuits of their own design by choosing and organizing circuit components from a toolbar.
The program is fairly simple to navigate. Students choose from a well-labeled menu of possible experiments. Once children have chosen an experiment, each component of the circuit in that experiment appears on the screen as a picture and is appropriately connected with wires to other components. Helpful hints appear each time the cursor passes over one of these components, explaining how the parts can be removed, replaced and altered.
Each experiment includes a written procedure and follow-up questions. Unfortunately, the procedure screen and simulation cannot be viewed at the same time, so it makes sense to print the instructions and follow-up questions before attempting the simulation. Also, there is no solution set to the follow-up questions, so a student needs access to a knowledgeable adult to check his or her answers. However, a glossary describing important concepts is part of the software package.
Young users may benefit most from this program if they work with an adult who understands circuits. This adult can guide children through the main ideas of the experiments and create memorable analogies for concepts such as voltage and current. Otherwise, children may be caught-up in the details of connecting components and misinterpret concepts such as current, resistance and voltage and their relationships.
Ideally, a student would build "real" electrical circuits while or after learning with simulated circuits on the computer. This software program combined with hands-on experience will ensure that a student learns the logic of circuits enough to predict how changing one part will affect another part of a circuit.
Children may be more successful with this program if an adult works one-on-one with the child at home or a teacher leads students through these experiments by providing instructions, opportunity for discussion, and solutions to follow-up questions.
PC: Windows 3.1 or later, 486/66 or faster, 10 MB hard drive space, 16 MB RAM, VGA 640x480 color display, 2X or faster CD-ROM, sound card .return to top of page
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