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NSW Syllabuses

STEM Stage 3 - Activity 4


Description of activity

Students design and create a lamp and lampshade that will achieve a particular lighting effect.

This activity will take several hours over 3 or 4 sessions.


Before attempting this activity students should be able to:

  • complete an electrical circuit and use accepted symbols to describe it
  • classify materials according to the way in which they disperse or transmit light
  • construct nets of three-dimensional shapes and build the shapes.

Students investigate a range of different materials, identifying their properties regarding the way they reflect or disperse light. Using knowledge of three-dimensional shapes, students will create a net/pattern for their lampshade, choose the appropriate materials for its construction and make the lamp and lampshade.



ST3-5WT plans and implements a design process, selecting a range of tools, equipment, materials and techniques to produce solutions that address the design criteria and identified constraints
ST3-4WS investigates by posing questions, including testable questions, making predictions and gathering data to draw evidence-based conclusions and develop explanations
MA3-1WM describes and represents mathematical situations in a variety of ways using mathematical terminology and some conventions

Knowledge and understanding

ST3-6PW describes how scientific understanding about the sources, transfer and transformation of electricity is related to making decisions about its use
ST3-7PW uses scientific knowledge about the transfer of light to solve problems that directly affect people’s lives
ST3-13MW describes how the properties of materials determine their use for specific purposes
ST3-16P describes systems used to produce or manufacture products, and the social and environmental influences on product design
MA3-14MG identifies three-dimensional objects, including prisms and pyramids, on the basis of their properties, and visualises, sketches and constructs them given drawings of different views
MA3-16MG measures and constructs angles, and applies angle relationships to find unknown angles



  • Samples of different materials and fabrics, eg cardboard, cellophane, unwaxed greaseproof paper, aluminium foil, various types of paper, etc
  • Glue sticks, scissors, paperclips, rulers, hole punchers
  • Wire and wire cutters (possibly), or other materials that can be used for support
  • Bulbs (or LEDs) or resistors, batteries, switches and insulated wires

Work, health and safety

Check relevant Work, health and safety guidelines.

Use of batteries, rather than mains power or power packs, is recommended.

Evidence of work for assessment purposes

  • A design plan for the lamp and lampshade, showing:
    • A circuit diagram for the lamp
    • The net of the lampshade, including instructions needed to make it
    • A justification for the materials chosen
    • Photos of the finished product, showing a front view, back view, side view and an aerial view.

STEM teaching and learning activities

  • Brainstorm the variety of lampshades and light coverings to determine how they are used.
  • Explain the design brief, that is, to create a lamp and lampshade that will effectively disperse or focus light to perform a specific function, eg a lamp for sewing, a desk lamp, a general room light, book light, etc.
  • Students research different types and styles of lighting.
  • Students explore a range of materials to determine how light is dispersed or transmitted through them.
  • Students prepare a design plan outlining:
    • The structure of the lamp
    • A diagram of the electrical circuit
    • A net/pattern for the lampshade
    • Materials chosen for the lampshade and a justification for their choices.
  • Students test that the electrical circuit works as planned.
  • Students construct their lamp and lampshade.
  • If students decide that changes to their plan should be made, these changes should be reflected and justified on their design plan.
  • Students provide feedback on other students’ designs.

Vocabulary list

Absorb – when light does not pass through an object (absorption, n.)
Conductor – material that carries an electric current
Disperse – the way light is spread over a wide area (dispersion, n.)
Focus– the point of light which provides the greatest clarity and definition
Insulator – material that does not carry an electric current
Material – the matter from which something is made, eg fabric, metal, wood
Net – a plane figure that can be folded to form a polyhedron
Opaque – not allowing light to travel through it, ie light is reflected or absorbed
Reflect – when light is bounced back after hitting any surface (reflection, n.)
Resistor – material that restricts the flow of an electric current
Translucent – allowing light, but not detailed shapes, to pass through it
Transmit – when light moves through a transparent or translucent material (transmission, n.)
Transparent – material that lets light travel through it so that objects behind can be clearly seen

Key inquiry questions

Why have you chosen these materials?
Encourage the use of specific words relating to the properties of the material and their suitability for the task.

Is your lampshade dispersing or focusing the light?
Discuss the student’s intentions for this design. Are they making adjustments to help achieve this intention?

Additional information

The following statements outline some common preconceived ideas that many students hold, which are scientifically inaccurate and may impede student understanding.

Only shiny materials reflect light
Most materials reflect some light. Coloured objects absorb certain wavelengths of light and reflect others, eg an object that looks red absorbs all wavelengths of light other than red, which it reflects.

Our eyes produce light so we can see things
Our eyes do not send out rays of light, they detect light rays and are able to form images through the structure and function of the eye and brain.

Mistakes are bad
Making mistakes and working out how to overcome them is essential for deep understanding. Encourage students to make modifications (with justifications). Plans are never perfect and finding out why things don’t work, the way you expect them to, leads to deeper understanding.

Support resources

Teacher references

Student references

Student interactive

Adjustments for the diversity of learners

Investigate the dispersal of light using prisms to create the spectrum of colours.

Investigate the structure and function of the eye. Compare the eyes and vision of different animals. ST3-10LW

Investigate how lighting has been used in home, since European settlement of Australia. Discuss how these changes have affected the everyday life of individuals. HT3-2

Investigate the ways in which electricity is provided to different communities. Who is responsible for the provision of electricity and how decisions are made, concerning the extent of electricity provision. GE3-2, GE3-3, ACHGK029

Investigate how lighting affects a drama production. Devise a lighting plan for a drama production. DRAS3.3

Investigate ways in which artists have used light in the creation of their artworks. VAS3.2


By completing this STEM activity your students’ understanding of the properties of light and electricity is enhanced and will be further developed in Science Stages 4 and 5, and Physics.

Your students have been guided in the development and uses of a design plan. The planning and justification of changes to that plan develop critical-thinking skills. Providing and receiving constructive feedback and making modifications to address issues raised develops student resilience and a culture of being able to learn from one’s mistakes.