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Capacitance and RC Circuits Inquiry Lab Kit for AP® Physics 2 will harvest an understanding of conservation of electric charge in complex circuits.

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AP Physics 2, Big Idea 4, Investigation 7

Electronics play a major role in our everyday lives. Capacitors are simple circuit components that most electronic devices incorporate in a variety of ways. They are used in circuits inside camera-flash units, touch screens and even heart defibrillators. But how do these devices store electric charge?

This advanced-inquiry lab first guides students through an introductory activity where they build their own capacitors and study the variables that affect how much charge can be stored. This introduces students to how a potential difference is created across parallel conducting plates and gives them insight into the charging period of a capacitor. With the help of a capacitance meter, students evaluate the important parameters. In the guided-inquiry activity, students use their capacitor along with known capacitors in a circuit containing an LED, which allows for a semi-quantitative measurement of the time constant of an RC circuit. This introduction into capacitance and the visual representation of the time constant gives students the know-how to further develop their understanding of conservation of electric charge in complex circuits.

Complete for 24 students working in groups of three. A 9-V battery or equivalent power supply and multimeters are required and available separately.

Correlation to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Science & Engineering Practices

Asking questions and defining problems
Developing and using models
Planning and carrying out investigations
Engaging in argument from evidence
Obtaining, evaluation, and communicating information

Disciplinary Core Ideas

MS-PS2.A: Forces and Motion
HS-PS3.C: Relationship between Energy and Forces

Crosscutting Concepts

Cause and effect
Systems and system models
Energy and matter
Patterns

Performance Expectations

MS-PS2-3. Ask questions about data to determine the factors that affect the strength of electric and magnetic forces
HS-PS3-5. Develop and use a model of two objects interacting through electric or magnetic fields to illustrate the forces between objects and the changes in energy of the objects due to the interaction.