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.
Knowledge and understanding
- 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.
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?
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.
- Light and the Nature of Seeing: background teacher information
- Energy and Change – Light: teacher information and activities
- Syllabus Bites – Electricity: DoE Teachers’ notes
- Circuit Diagrams: short interactive on electrical symbols and drawing circuit diagrams
- Let the electricity flow: short video of historical experiments on electricity
- Electrifying Concert: set up the lighting for a show
Adjustments for the diversity of learners
Investigate the dispersal of light using prisms to create the spectrum of colours.
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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.