# Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Divider

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1 Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Provided by TryEngineering - Lesson Focus Students will design, build, and characterize one of the basic circuits of electrical engineering, the voltage divider. These circuits produce a wide range of output voltages and are building blocks for more complex circuits. Circuit design will emphasize the concepts of Ohm s Law and students will explore mathematical relationships of parallel and series resistors. Students will demonstrate their design efforts by building prototype circuits and using test measurement tools to confirm their predictions. Lesson Synopsis Voltage dividers are a building block circuit used by Electrical Engineers to analyze resistance and optimize electronic devices. In this lesson students apply Ohm s Law to construct voltage divider circuits. Students learn how to read resistor codes and calculate resistor values. Using breadboards, students build voltage dividers and predict and measure output voltage values. Students are given the electrical requirements for an LED, and are then challenged to design and verify a voltage divider circuit to illuminate it. Age Levels Objectives Understand and demonstrate the engineering design process Use Ohm's Law as a tool for engineering design. Use a digital multimeter to collect data. Analyze the electrical requirements of light emitting diodes (LED s). Anticipated Learner Outcomes As a result of this activity, students should develop an understanding of: The engineering design process The relationship between voltage, current, and resistance in an electrical circuit basic breadboard and measurement techniques Prerequisites (Recommended) Students should have a basic working knowledge of these related TryEngineering lessons (available from /lesson.php) Get Connected With Ohm's Law Series and Parallel Circuits Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Page 1 of 19

2 Lesson Activities The activity consists of using a nine-volt battery to: Predict the output voltage of a simple voltage divider using Ohm s Law and derived equations. Design, build, and demonstrate a simple voltage divider circuit. Measure and record the voltage produced and compare to the predicted value. Use the concepts and techniques to design a circuit for a high intensity light emitting diode. Resources/Materials Four teacher handouts are provided: Step By Step Guide Appendix 1: Equations for Series and Parallel Resistance Appendix 2: Matrix of Possible Voltage Outputs Appendix 3: Advanced Equations for Voltage Ratios Three student handouts are provided for advance review: Voltage Information Sheet Resistor Color Codes Step By Step Procedures Alignment to Curriculum Frameworks See attached curriculum alignment sheet. Internet Connections TryEngineering () IEEE Global History Network ( ITEA Standards for Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology ( National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Principles and Standards for School Mathematics ( National Science Education Standards ( Supplemental Reading Ohm's Law, Electrical Math and Voltage Drop Calculations by Tom Henry. (ISBN: ) Teach Yourself Electricity and Electronics, Fourth Edition (Paperback) by Stan Gibilisco. (ISBN: ) Electrical Engineering 101: Everything You Should Have Learned in School but Probably Didn't by Darren Ashby. (ISBN: ) Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Page 2 of 19

3 Extension Ideas Create an Excel spreadsheet that predicts all possible output voltages given a selection of resistors and batteries. Remove R2 from the circuit. Replace R1 with the largest available value. Connect the multimeter to measure V2, using the multimeter s internal resistance instead of R2. Use the voltage measured to calculate the internal resistance of the multimeter. Optional Writing Activity Research the life and work of Georg Ohm and write a page on how his discoveries have impacted modern electronics. References Brad Snodgrass Central Indiana Section of IEEE URL: Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Page 3 of 19

4 Step by Step Guide Lesson Goal This lesson encourages students to use Ohm s Law to design and build a voltage divider circuit. The voltage divider is one of the first circuits Electrical Engineering students learn and it is very useful for the study of Ohm s law and associated concepts. During this lesson students derive and apply mathematical equations to build voltage divider circuits, including a circuit that will power a light emitting diode (LED). Lesson Objectives Learn about Ohm's Law. Use a digital multimeter to collect data. Explore the concepts of voltage and current. Analyze the electrical requirements of light emitting diodes (LED s). Materials Student handouts One set of materials for each group of students: Note: The following materials list can be adapted for material on hand or for obtaining other voltage outputs. All materials can be reused. Multimeter Breadboard with Wire Set Calculator LED Super Red, Clear Lens 9V Alkaline Battery 9V Battery Holder with Wire Leads Resistor: 100 ohm, Carbon Film, 1/2W, 5% Resistor: 150 ohm, Carbon Film, 1/2W, 5% Resistor: 220 ohm, Carbon Film, 1/2W, 5% Resistor: 330 ohm, Carbon Film, 1/2W, 5% Resistor: 470 ohm, Carbon Film, 1/2W, 5% Resistor: 560 ohm, Carbon Film, 1/2W, 5% Resistor: 680 ohm, Carbon Film, 1/2W, 5% Resistor: 820 ohm, Carbon Film, 1/2W, 5% Resistor: 910 ohm, Carbon Film, 1/2W, 5% Resistor: 1000 ohm, Carbon Film, 1/2W, 5% Time Needed Three to four 45 minute sessions Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Page 4 of 19

5 Step by Step Guide (continued) Procedure Divide students into groups of two. Show students the various Student Resource Sheets. These may be read in class, or provided as reading material for the prior night's homework. Step 1: Reading Resistor Values Students will find each of the following resistors in their lesson kit. They can review the handout on Resistor Color Codes and then determine the color codes for the following resistors. After finding each resistor in the lesson kit students can measure and record the resistance and determine whether the value is within the tolerance. Resistor 820 ohm 470 ohm First Band Second Band Multiplier Tolerance Highest Resistance Lowest Resistance Gray Red Brown 5% Yellow Violet Brown 5% K ohm Brown Black Red 5% Measured Within Tolerance? Step 2: Understanding Breadboards Breadboards normally have rows of holes along each edge that are connected together. Then, running perpendicular to the edge holes, there are shorter rows with holes connected together. Oftentimes, the breadboards are split into two halves so that an integrated circuit can be placed in the middle of the board. For these boards, there will be a set of holes on each side of the split that are connected to each other, but are not connected across the split. Invite students to explore the breadboards found in their kits. In the spaces provided on their worksheets, encourage students to draw diagrams of some of the connections on the breadboards and how the breadboards may be used to build a voltage divider circuit. Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Page 5 of 19

6 Step by Step Guide (continued) Step 3: Building a Voltage Using the diagram and the resistors in the lesson kit, invite students to build a voltage divider using the 9V battery, R1=820ohm, and R2=470ohm. Students can then predict and measure output voltages for their voltage dividers and record the information on their worksheets. Assuming the 9V battery, R1=820ohm, and R2=470ohm. What voltage would you expect? * 470 R2 3.3V = 9V ( ) V 2 V battery (R1+R2) What voltage did you measure? Remember that the resistors have tolerances!! Step 4: Building a Voltage for a Desired Output Using the voltage divider circuit, challenge students to select R1 and R2 from the lesson kit to produce the following output voltages: V 2 V battery R1 R2 V 2 calculated V 2 measured 2.0V 9V V 9V V 9V V 9V Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Page 6 of 19

7 Step by Step Guide (continued) Step 5: Building a Light Emitting Diode circuit A circuit to illuminate a Light Emitting Diode (LED) is very similar to a Voltage circuit. An LED circuit replaces R1 with the LED. For an LED in this configuration, V 1 will be a constant voltage, regardless of the total current. Therefore, for these circuits, V 2 is also known. LED s require a certain amount of current for optimal operation. This is called the bias current. Therefore, if V 2 and bias current are known, students can calculate a value for R2. As the name implies, LED s are diodes. This means that they will only illuminate when installed with the proper polarity. In most cases, the flatted side of the LED needs to face towards the lower voltage. For this circuit, the flatted side should point towards R2 If R1 is replaced with an LED that has a voltage V 1 of 2.0V and requiring a bias current of 20mA, (0.020A) determine the following: What is the value of V2? 7.0V = 9.0V V 2 V battery V 1 What is the value of I total = = I total I 1 I 2 What is the resistor required for proper bias. 350 = 7.0V / R 2 V 2 I 2 Try a few resistors near the required resistor value. Measure V2 and compute the bias current. V 2 measured V battery R2 I 2 calculated mA mA mA Which resistor is the best choice? Why? Many correct answers are possible, depending on the actual resistor value and the parameters for the particular LED. Students should be encouraged to try different resistors to find a pleasing LED brightness, without being out of specified parameters. Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Page 7 of 19

8 Appendix 1: Equations for Series and Parallel Resistance By applying basic concepts and Ohm s Law, the equations for series and parallel resistance can be derived. For a series circuit, R1 is said to be in series with R2. For these circuits, the current flowing through each device in series is the same. Adding the voltages across each element in series is equal to the total (battery) voltage. For a parallel circuit, R1 is said to be in parallel with R2. For these circuits, the voltage across each device in parallel is the same. Adding the current through each element in parallel is equal to the total (battery) current. These concepts can be used to derive the equations for series and parallel resistors. Series Resistors I 1 = I 2 = I total V battery = V 1 +V 2 V 1 = I 1 *R1 V 2 = I 2 *R2 V battery = I total * R total Substituting, and dividing by I total I total * R total = I 1 *R1 + I 2 *R2 R total = R1 + R2 Parallel Resistors V battery = V 1 = V 2 I total = I 1 + I 2 Substituting, and dividing by V battery V battery /R total = V 1 /R1 + V 2 /R2 1/R total = 1/R1 + 1/R2 Solving for R total R total = (R1*R2)/(R1+R2) Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Page 8 of 19

9 Appendix 2: Matrix of Possible Voltage Outputs For the specified list of resistors and a 9V battery, the following output voltages are possible: R2 R1 Output Voltage Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Page 9 of 19

10 Appendix 3: Advanced Equations for Voltage Ratios The ratio of the battery voltage and the desired voltage can be used to determine the goal ratio of the two resistors. Knowing this ratio is very helpful when choosing from a limited selection of resistors. Starting with the Voltage Equation The ratio of the voltage is represented by V 2 = V battery * (R2)/(R1 +R2) V 2 /V battery = R2/(R1 + R2) Invert the terms and solve for a simpler ratio of resistors V battery /V 2 = (R1 +R2)/R2 V battery /V 2 = (R1/R2) + (R2/R2) V battery /V 2 = R1/R2 + 1 (V battery /V 2 ) -1 = R1/R2 R1/R2 = (V battery /V 2 ) -1 Consider the requirement for a 5V supply, using a 9V battery. Search for two resistors that obey the following proportion. R1/R2 = (V battery /V 2 ) -1 R1/R2 = (9/5) 1 R1/R2 = 0.8 Using this ratio, it is immediately clear that R1=820 and R2=1000 will produce the desired voltage. Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Page 10 of 19

11 Voltage Information Sheet A Voltage is used to produce a desired output voltage, using resistors in series. The output voltage (voltage across R2) is proportional to the ratio of R1 and R2 Using Ohm s Law, compute the Voltage across R1 and R2 and the total resistance V 1 = I 1 *R1 -- where V 1 is the voltage across R1, and I 1 is the current through R1 V 2 = I 2 *R2 -- where V 2 is the voltage across R2, and I 2 is the current through R2 V battery = I total * R total -- where V battery is the battery voltage and R total is the total resistance Since R1 and R2 are in series, the total resistance is known. R total = R 1 + R 2 Since R1 and R2 are in series, the current through each resistor is the same as the total current I total = I 1 = I 2 Solving for V 2 I 2 = V 2 /R2 I total = V battery /R total = V battery /(R1+R2) I 2 = I total V 2 /R2 = V battery /(R1 +R2) V 2 = V battery (R2/(R1+R2)) Therefore, the voltage across R2 can be determined by controlling the ratio of R2 to the total resistance, R1 + R2. Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Page 11 of 19

12 Student Resource: Resistor Color Codes All resistors are color coded for quicker reading of their values. To determine the value of a resistor, first look for a gold or silver band at one end of the color code. This is the tolerance band. Rotate the resistor so that the tolerance band is on your right. Now, the value of the resistor is read from left to right. The first two bands represent the first two digits in the resistor value. The third band is a multiplier. Use the chart below to decode the colors. The example above has a first color band of Brown and second color band of Black. The multiplier band is Red. The tolerance band is Gold. The value of the resistor is computed as follows: Brown = 1 Black = 0 Red = 2 Gold = 5% Resistance = 10 * 10 2 = 1000 Ohm ( ) or 1K Tolerance = 5% of 1000 = 50. The tolerance band specifies that these resistors may have any value between 950 and 1050 COLOR DIGIT MULTIPLIER Black = 1 Brown = 10 Red = 100 Orange = 1000 (1K) Yellow = 10,000 (10K) Green = 100,000 (100K) Blue = 1,000,000 (1M) Violet = 10,000,000 (10M) Gray = 100,000,000 (100M) Tolerance Gold= 5% Silver=10% None=20% Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Page 12 of 19

13 Student Worksheet: Step by Step Procedures Step 1: Reading Resistor Values Before the appropriate resistors can be chosen, their values must be determined. One way, of course, is to measure every resistor. Obviously, this is not practical. Fortunately, every resistor comes with a color-coded value printed on it. Review the handout on Resistor Color Codes. Determine the color codes for the following resistors. Find the resistor in the lesson kit. Measure and record the resistance. Is the value within the tolerance? Resistor 820 ohm First Band Second Band Multiplier Tolerance Highest Resistance Lowest Resistance Measured Within Tolerance? 470 ohm 1K ohm Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Page 13 of 19

14 Student Worksheet (continued) Step 2: Understanding Breadboards Engineers often use a tool called a Breadboard to build prototype circuits. Find a white plastic board full of holes and a box of pre-cut wires in the lesson kit. This is the breadboard. Breadboards are made so that some of the holes are electrically connected, so that circuits can be built. Using the multimeter and wires from the kit of pre-cut wires, draw a diagram of some of the connections on the breadboard. Next, draw a diagram showing how a voltage divider circuit might be built with the breadboard. Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Page 14 of 19

15 Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Student Worksheet (continued) Step 3: Building a Voltage Using the diagram and the resistors in the lesson kit, build a voltage divider using the 9V battery, R1=820ohm, and R2=470ohm. What voltage would you expect? = * R2 ( + ) V 2 V battery (R1+R2) What voltage did you measure? Step 4: Building a Voltage for a Desired Output Using the voltage divider circuit, select R1 and R2 from the lesson kit to produce the following output voltages V 2 V battery R1 R2 V 2 calculated V 2 measured 2.0V 3.0V 5.0V 7.0V Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Page 15 of 19

16 Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Student Worksheet (continued) Step 5: Building a Light Emitting Diode circuit A circuit to illuminate a Light Emitting Diode (LED) is very similar to a Voltage circuit. An LED circuit replaces R1 with the LED. For an LED in this configuration, V 1 will be a constant voltage, regardless of the total current. Therefore, for these circuits, V 2 is also known. LED s require a certain amount of current for optimal operation. This is called the bias current. Therefore, if V 2 and bias current are known, a value for R2 can be calculated. As the name implies, LED s are diodes and they will only illuminate when installed with the proper polarity. For this circuit, the flatted side should point towards R2 If R1 is replaced with an LED that has a voltage V 1 of 2.0V and requiring a bias current of 20mA, (0.020A) determine the following What is the value of V 2? = V 2 V battery V 1 What is the value of I total = = I total I 1 I 2 What is the resistor required for proper bias. = / R 2 V 2 I 2 Try a few resistors near the calculated value to find an optimal LED brightness. Measure V 2 and compute the bias current. V 2 measured V battery R2 I 2 calculated Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Page 16 of 19

17 Student Worksheet (continued) Which resistor is the best choice? Why? What happens if the LED is installed backwards? Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Page 17 of 19

18 Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Alignment to Curriculum Frameworks Note: All lesson plans in this series are aligned to the National Science Education Standards which were produced by the National Research Council and endorsed by the National Science Teachers Association, and if applicable, also to the International Technology Education Association's Standards for Technological Literacy or the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics' Principals and Standards for School Mathematics. National Science Education Standards Grades 5-8 (ages 10-14) CONTENT STANDARD A: Science as Inquiry As a result of activities, all students should develop Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry Understandings about scientific inquiry CONTENT STANDARD B: Physical Science As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop understanding of Transfer of energy Understandings about science and technology National Science Education Standards Grades 9-12 (ages 14-18) CONTENT STANDARD A: Science as Inquiry As a result of activities, all students should develop Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry Understandings about scientific inquiry CONTENT STANDARD B: Physical Science As a result of activities, all students should develop Interactions of energy and matter Standards for Technological Literacy - All Ages Design Standard 10: Students will develop an understanding of the role of troubleshooting, research and development, invention and innovation, and experimentation in problem solving. The Designed World Standard 16: Students will develop an understanding of and be able to select and use energy and power technologies. Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Page 18 of 19

19 Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Alignment to Curriculum Frameworks (continued) Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (ages 10-14) Measurement Standards - Apply appropriate techniques, tools, and formulas to determine measurements. use common benchmarks to select appropriate methods for estimating measurements. Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (ages 14-18) Measurement Standards - Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems, and processes of measurement make decisions about units and scales that are appropriate for problem situations involving measurement. - Apply appropriate techniques, tools, and formulas to determine measurements. analyze precision, accuracy, and approximate error in measurement situations. use unit analysis to check measurement computations. Using Ohm s Law to Build a Voltage Page 19 of 19

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