The AR Circuits app allows students to build and test realistic circuits which are then enhanced using augmented reality technology. The app allows you to build circuits without the expense, safety concerns, and problems associated with physical electrical components.
The circuits are designed by arranging printed paper component cards which you can download and print from the AR Circuits website. The circuits can then be viewed through the AR Circuits app and the camera on your iPad or iPhone.
The components currently available include one battery, two switches, four bulbs, one resistor, and six wires. These components allow you to build series, parallel, and combination circuits. The resistances of bulbs and resistors are adjustable. Click on the bulb/resistor on the screen and adjust its resistance up or down. Clicking on the switches will turn them on or off.
The website also provides a pack of printable worksheets which can be viewed through the app. These ask students to solve circuit problems where components are missing. This is useful for creating a little more structure to the learning, rather than just free-exploring.
There’s also an on-screen version of the cards, which allows you to manipulate them on a whiteboard or computer screen before viewing them through the app. This eliminates the fuss of the cards – create circuits and then test by viewing through the iPad. But if you’re going to do this, you might as well use a more useful simulator such as the ones from Phet.
Using the app
I did find the cards a little fiddly – if they are slightly bent or overlapping each other then they won’t get picked up by the camera. You could solve the first problem by printing them on stiffer card, to make them easier to handle. Don’t laminate, as glare makes them harder to see.
It would have been nice if there was the option to use more than one battery, to allow for KS2 electricity investigations where children are required to vary the number of batteries to see the effect on bulb brightness. It’s a shame this is missing. Hopefully they’ll add it as an option later on. (Update – that’s now here, see comments below) You also cannot change the voltage of the battery pack. You can however change the number of bulbs, and the brightness will change accordingly. Parallel circuits can also be built for KS3 classes.
I like this as an AR tool, but I’m not sure if there’s enough here to justify it being a paid-for app just yet, given some of the other AR apps that are free. But compared to the cost of electricity kit, this could well be worth investing in. As always, I still don’t think any simulation should replace doing practical work for real, but for revision or extra investigations it can be a very useful addition.
And if you like this, check out 4 Augmented Reality Apps for Teaching Science.