Alternative Energy with Snap Circuits


Name of Activity

Alternative Energy With Snap Circuits




energy, sources, snap circuits, batteries, cranks, mechanical, solar power



Grade Level



1 Hour Total

Brief Description

In this activity students will explore snap circuits without the use of a snap circuit battery. Snap Circuits are great in that they come with other alternative sources of energy, such as the hand crank and solar panel. Students will use these new sources to explore series and parallel circuits.

Lesson Objectives:

– Discuss energy and what it does

– Introduce students to other alternative sources of energy

– Explore the use of the mechanical crank and solar panels

– Review previous snap circuit lessons about: series and parallel circuits.

– Incorporate the mechanical crank and solar panels to old circuits (built last week) and new

– Have group and class discussions about specific circuits built

Materials Needed:

Snap Circuit set (take out batteries)

Snap Circuit cranks (they break easily so remind classroom to be gentle)

Snap Circuit solar panels

extra snap circuit parts (wires, motors, lamps, resistors)

Preparation and Set Up:

-Have a class discussion about sources of energy other than batteries

-Split up class into groups of two (groups of two ended up forming larger groups. For example when we did this lesson we ended up with a larger group focused on solar panels, another group focused on the crank, and a third group focused on a combination of both)

-Distribute snap circuit kits

Necessary Background

-Parallel and Series Circuits

-Familiarity with Snap Circuit parts (new and old)

-How to write circuit diagrams (if you want your students to use them)

-Be able to discuss how power changes with how the solar panel and mechanical crank are used. For Example: more sun exposure or faster crank = quicker motors and brighter lamps (more power)


1. Identify the problem: how do we build snap circuits without batteries?2. Discuss what the mechanical crank and solar panels do to provide power. Depending on the focus of your unit, you may also discuss climate change and why renewable resources are so important.

3. Have groups draw circuit diagrams  to brainstorm ideas, and make predictions of how the cranks and solar panels may differ from batteries.

4. Have groups decide on a few circuits to build.

5. Have groups build their circuits (incorporating cranks, solar panels, or both).

6. Test the circuit:

  • Have those with solar panels test near the window
  • Have those with cranks practice cranking (carefully since the cranks are delicate)

7. Have groups discuss:

  • What did these new tools do?
  • How did lamps, motors, or fans respond?
  • What is the electron flow in the circuit?

8. Have groups share with each other their circuits, integrate groups, have them build onto existing circuits or create new ones.  This part of the class was very open for exploration.


Some groups began using found materials around the class to add onto the circuit. For example one group used tape to make a tower of fans powered by a solar panel.Open the circuit building to using other materials in the class room.

Previous Activity (if applicable)

Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable)

1 comment on this post.
  1. Yash K. Gurditta:

    For our space mission to Mars themed curriculum in a 5th grade classroom at JQS, we briefly went over alternative energy using snap circuits as the last part of the mission. We began by teaching a quick lesson about how electricity flows through a circuit. Because of time restraints, we did not get into series and parallel circuits. However, we did introduce the concept of resistance in circuits. After our presentation on electricity, we had students use critical thinking and problem solving skills to design circuits that would complete the objective we assigned. The last part of the lesson was a bonus challenge that required students to make an LED light up with two different brightnesses with the use of a resistor and a switch.

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