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Pencil Registor


Submitted By daisyd
Words 3874
Pages 16
Project Design

Problem Statement

* The purpose of this project is to make a resistor from a pencil. I would like or want to figure out how electricity is trapped or contained to form the energy in a circuit to make electrical appliances work. In my experiment: I will create my own resistor out of pencils, along with my own circuit board to see the effects a circuit has on energy.

*What a resistor does is slows down the flow of electricity through devices, which now days many devices use: dimmer switches, fan regulators, lights, and what I’m typing on a computer, and many more things in everyday living.

Relevance of your testable question

* Graphite will be the main material used on this project: which is the pencil lead. It is an electrical conductor, which allows many electrical possibilities. It is one of the allotropes of carbon, which in the next paragraph I will give a brief description from Wikipedia. Graphite is considered a semimetal, so there are many electrical possibilities that can be done with it. Along with many other uses for it.

Allotropes (Graphite) “unlike a diamond, graphite is an electrical conductor. Thus, it can be used in, for instance, electrical arc lamp electrodes. Like wise, under standard conditions, graphite is the most stable form of carbon. Therefore, it is used in thermochemistry as the standard state for defining the heat formation of carbon compounds.”
(Definition retrieved from Wikipedia)

Literature review

The literature I used and the websites were very helpful. They gave me idea on how to conduct the following experiment. I went even further and talked to my grandpa who was an electrical engineer for Boeing, to help also further explain the process that would be taking place. Science buddies websites that was done by: Sara Agee Ph. D was the most helpful in guiding me through this experiment. Other experiments that I have tried, failed due to how it was set-up and lack of quantitative data. So in the experiment portion I will explain how this experiment should be set-up, but if I have a hard time describing I will resort to Science Buddies followed by proper citation. Though I understand when doing an experiment you want to see an “experiment!!” But at the end of this project: I did experiment and was able to see success!

Internet resources

1. Allotropes of Carbon
Wikipedia contributors. (9 December 2012 00:53 UTC). Allotropes of carbon. Retrieved 18 December 2012 10:18 UTC, from

2. Scince Buddies, Pencil Resistor
Agee, Sarah, Ph. D.. (Last edit date: 2009-03-15). Science Buddies. In Pencil Resistor.. Retrieved November 01, 2012, from

3. Surf this website for kids by the First Energy Corporation. Find out about electricity, history, efficiency and safety while having fun too! They also provide an excellent glossary: 
2005. "Electric Avenue." First Energy Corp. Akron, OH. [12/13/05] 4. Thelwell, Andy, 2005. "The Blobz Guide to Electrical Circuits." Staffordshire University, UK. [12/13/05] 5. The best place to buy the electronic parts/tools for exploring and playing with electricity is Radio Shack. Find all of your supplies on the online catalog: 
2012. "Radio Shack: Cables, Parts & Connectors". Radio Shack Corp. Fort Worth, TX. [12/13/05]

* Also Books 1. Glover, David. 1993. Batteries, Bulbs, and Wire. New York, NY. Kingfisher. 2. Berger, Melvin. 1989. Switch On, Switch Off. New York, NY. Harper Trophy. 3. Cole, Joanna and Degen, Bruce. 1997. The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip. New York, NY. Scholastic Books.

Experimental Design:

* Most circuits are designed to allow electricity to flow freely. Where others are designed to slow down the flow of electricity. The one’s that slow down or hinder is where the resistor takes place. A resistor is an electronic unit that is fitted to an electrical unit to hinder the energy flow, with accordance to Ohm’s Law. Ohm’s law is explained also in Wikipedia, but a breakdown would be: (R) resistance, (I) electrical current and (V) voltage. A resistor is useful in limiting the current so that just the right amount of current flows through:
I.E. If the current is too strong when flowing through an object (light bulb) there is damage done to that object (filament is damaged). Hence this is why we a need a resistor in place to control the flow of electricity.

* In this experiment, I will use a wooden pencil as a resistor. This experiment will help me understand how the length of the resistor (being the pencil) will over all affect the amount of current flowing through a circuit. The end result will be the brightness or darkness of the bulb.

* The purpose of this experiment is to show the effect a resistor has on a circuit.
*The size (length) of a resistor, which in this experiment will be the pencil will/should affect the output from a circuit.

* The materials needed to complete this experiment include:
Pencils (#2 pencil recommended), clips (alligator clip set insulated recommended), a 9-volt battery with connector (a negative and positive), a 9-volt light bulb (small recommended) with mount/holder, measuring tool (a ruler recommended), a pencil sharpener (manual or automatic), a Popsicle stick and a cutting utensil (saw recommended by Science Buddies, I did not have one so I used a pocket knife).

* Over all this experiment will create a simple circuit that varies in electrical power. How the electrical power will vary will be depending on the pencil length.

* Dependent, independent, and controlled variables

* Dependent 1. The amount of ohms each resistor produces. 2. How bright/dim the light will become.

* Independent 1. The length of the pencil resistor. 2. The connectivity of test equipment.

* Controlled Variables 1. The voltage of the power source (battery). 2. Using the same testing procedures for all of the resistors. 3. Temperature of the pencil lead.

* Threat reduction to internal validity:

* I will be experimenting with this idea of limited flow of electricity and by adhering to all of the variables listed above and with clear accurate quantitative data this will greatly reduce the threat to internal validity. I will also be photographing the experiment as it progresses for visual observation so that there is no doubt of the data collected.

* Hypothesis

* As I test the various length of the pencil lead (graphite), I predict that there will be an increases the resistance and will increase accordingly and the light will dim. Why I believe this to be so: is the longer the resistor is (the length of the pencil or the graphite) the further the distance the energy has to travel along the pencil lead (graphite).

* A good analogy to illustrate my prediction and how my grandfather described it best to me would be, “a man walking along a narrow hall. As it is packed with people, he is more likely to bump into them. This takes up more movement (kinetic) energy, and means that he becomes more tired than if the hall was empty and he didn’t hit anyone. It also means that he moves more slowly as well. In a relatively empty hall, because there are fewer people, he is less likely to hit them, and the net loss of kinetic energy is lower than that of the man in the packed hall.” We he the explained that, “therefore the length is proportional to the resistance.” I could not find the exact person who quoted this, though it does talk about it at I was unable to pull up because it was a paid for web site. This must be a quote a lot of electrical engineers use, because it is popular to be said and read. Many people have used it as a tool when it comes to experiments with electricity or physics.

* Experiment Materials 1. 3, #2 pencils. 2. 3, insulated alligator clip sets 3. 9 Volt battery 4. 9 Volt battery connector 5. A rated 9 Volt bulb: Small light bulb is what used and recommended on Science Buddies 6. Holder/mount for the light bulb 7. Measuring tool: I used a ruler 8. Pencil sharpener: manual or automatic will work 9. Popsicle stick 10. Bare strand of electrical wire (6 inches in length) 11. Saw Digital 12. Multi-meter Below is a picture of all the tools needed for the experiment, most of them I borrowed from my grandpa or boyfriend to complete the experiment. But if you would like to try this experiment yourself you can find the necessary tools at: Radio Shack, Home Depot, Lowes, or most hardware stores. The resistors you test can be anything found in or around the house.

* Experimental Procedure

1. First thing I did was set-up my circuit board, this will be how I test my resistors. What I needed to set-up my circuits: a. Three pieces of wire b. Insulated alligator clip’s c. Attach a alligator clip at the end of each piece of wire 2. I then took one piece of wire and attached it to my circuit board by using the alligator clip to one of the terminals of the battery. *You must make sure it is clipped securely to the terminal, because if it is not, then this could hinder the experiment. 3. I then taking the other end of that wire attached it to one of the light bulbs terminal holder (screw). *So, at this point I am making contact to the screw using the alligator clip. 4. Now grabbing the 2nd piece wire I will then repeat steps 1-3 5. Then I take my small light bulb and securely screw it in to the light bulb mount/holder. *Before I get started on my experiment, I’ll need to make sure my circuit board works. What you have created is similar to a car’s jumper cables. You will take the two empty ends of alligator clips (make sure to grab by the insulator sleeve) and touching/striking together to each other. *I tested to see how much of a shock you get from not grabbing the insulator sleeves, and it was definitely a shocking experience (though very minute). -If the light turns on, move on to the step 6. -If the light does not turn on; then go back to step 1 and start over again. The first thing I would check over your circuit board to see if everything is making a connection. I did various things to see if this could hinder the light, and it will. If the alligator clip even slightly touches the wood of the pencil, it will create the light not to light. 6. Next I will make my pencil resistors that I will test on the circuit board that I created in step 1. Which is what we checked in the last step. *The resistors will be of various sizes; the size of the resistor should affect the brightness of the blub. *How I will go about having resistors of various sizes will be by: cutting pencils into different lengths and then sharpening both ends of the pencil. Various sizes: large (6 inches), medium (4 inches), and small (2 inches), which Science buddies also recommended. *Almost anything sharp will cut through a pencil, I used a pocketknife, though Science Buddies does recommend using a saw. 7. After I cut each pencil to 2, 4, and 6 inches. I will then sharpen both ends of the pencil using my manual or automatic sharpener. *I used an automatic one, but any pencil sharpener will work. *Don't sharpen the pencils too much, but, just enough to expose the graphite so you can make a connection. *I did sharpen enough to where the alligator clip would not contact wood, because this will hinder the experiment.

8. After sharpening the pencil, you should then use measuring tool (a ruler or something similar) to measure each piece of pencil from what I call point A to B (Science buddies says “tip to tip”).
*This is done to make sure your measurements are still correct (which will help keep accuracy during the project).
*Why you would do so: is because after you sharpened the pencil lead, the length of the pencil may have changed.
*Please note that: if the over all length did change you must go back to step 6 and start over there to ensure the proper length for accuracy.
*Also keep in mind you want your pencil lengths to be in regular intervals: i.e. 2, 4, 6, etc. So if the sharpened pencils are still in regular intervals you should be able to continue the experiment.

9. I then placed each pencil resistor into the circuit one at a time by putting the resistor in between the alligator clips. So at this point your alligator clip will be connected to the resistor (pencil’s graphite). And did so very careful, so I didn’t chip the graphite with the alligator clip. Being careful also helped avoid human error.
* Make sure to place an alligator clip on both ends of the pencil, and always remember to grab by the insulated sleeve (because you never know when your going to get a shocking shocking experience).
*Always make sure the clips are not touching the wood of the #2 pencil (should be attached to the graphite), because as we all know wood is an insulator and the current will not flow through. Wood is not a conductive material like the graphite is.

10. You will repeat step 9 for each length of pencil/resistor. With every resistor I connect, I will look at the light. Each time one is connected I will see if there is a difference in brightness.
*Most observers when they do this experiment use a number scale to describe brightness. I will record of my observation the same way, and use a number scale to describe what I see. For example: I’ll use a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is dark and 5 is brightness.
*Science Buddies used a Brightness of Light scale using: off, low, medium, or high. But also recommends using a bright to darkness scale, like I will be using.

11. I will then use a multi-meter (I used a digital) to measure the voltage across each pencil, we will be looking for the drop in voltage. As was done in step 10, and also recommended by Science Buddies. I also recommend having someone there that knows how to read/work a multi-meter, this is where I got my boyfriends help to understand the functions of the multi-meter.
*I first set the multi-meter to read DC volts.
*Circuit will be connected, and the light bulb should be on.
The following is once again very similar to a car’s batteries and jumper cables:
-Touch positive: which is the red clip of the multi-meter and connect it on the side of the pencil connected to the positive terminal of the battery. Which on the battery will be (+)
-Touch the negative: which also known as the ground or the black clip of the multi-meter and connect it on the side of the pencil connected to the negative terminal of the battery. Which on a battery will be (-)
*Make sure to properly collect and repot the voltage reading.

12. Next, I measured the current/flow of electricity in the circuit. I did so by using the multi-meter.
*It should be connected in series: a. Using my pencil resistor b. My small 9 volt light bulb c. And my borrowed multi-meter that should be set once again to read DC current.
*Make sure to properly collect and report the data.

13. It is time to measure the Ohms (which is how we will measure the resistance), by connecting in series with pencil resistor.
* But before I do so, I will have to remove the pencil resistor from the circuit and set the multi meter to Ohms and then record my answers

14. I wanted to test my experiment even further so: Science Buddies recommended testing wire, and Popsicle stick. So I will also test a piece of what my boyfriend called “bare strand of electrical wire” and a wooden Popsicle stick.
*These are will be my control groups. I’ll then go back to step 9 and continue through step 13; by placing them one by one into the circuit and collecting the data by using the same method and scale I used on the test with the pencils. Which Science Buddies puts it this way:
*Bare strand electrical wire is "positive control."
*Popsicle stick is called a "negative control."

* Set up should be similar to the pictures below*

I used white paper underneath my experiment so in the pictures the glow of the light could be seen. This will not affect the experiment!


* 2 Inch Pencil Resistor: first part is data collected, followed by a picture of the experiment. Attempts | 1 | 2 | 3 | DC Volts (V) | 6.27V | 6.35 V | 6.22 V | DC Amps (I) | 0.297 I | 0.286 I | 0.265 I | Ohms (R) | 7.6 R | 7.6 R | 7.5 R |

Attempts | 1 | 2 | 3 | Brightness 1 Dark-5 Brightest | 4 | 4 | 4 |

* 4 Inch Pencil Resistor: first part is data collected, followed by the picture of the experiment. Which you will notice the light is getting dimmer, you can see so on the paper.

Attempts | 1 | 2 | 3 | DC Volts (V) | 5.49 V | 5.42 V | 5.31 | DC Amps (I) | .082 I | .106 I | .099 I | Ohms (R) | 12.8 R | 12.7 R | 12.8 R |

Attempts | 1 | 2 | 3 | Brightness 1 Dark-5 Brightest | 3 | 2 | 2 |

* 6 inch Pencil Resistor: first part is data collected, followed by the picture of the experiment.

Attempts | 1 | 2 | 3 | DC Volts (V) | 4.96 V | 5.01 V | 4.92 V | DC Amps (I) | .036 I | .046 I | 0.42 I | Ohms (R) | 16.0 R | 16.1 R | 16.0 R |

Attempts | 1 | 2 | 3 | Brightness 1 Dark-5 Brightest | 1 | 2 | 1 |

* Bare Wire: first part is data collected, followed by a picture of the experiment. Also, notice how bright the light is when its flowing through a metal resistor.

| 1 | 2 | 3 | DC Volts (V) | 8.47 V | 8.67 V | 8.54 V | DC Amps (I) | .279 I | .295 I | .284 I | Ohms (R) | 0.3 R | 0.3 R | 0.3 R |

Attempts | 1 | 2 | 3 | Brightness 1 Dark-5 Brightest | 5 | 5 | 5 |

* Popsicle Stick: first part is data collected, followed by the picture of the experiment. Keep in mind on this one that wood is an insulator, so the results will be a lot different.

Attempts | 1 | 2 | 3 | DC Volts (V) | 0.00 V | 0.00 V | 0.00 V | DC Amps (I) | .000 I | .000 I | .000 I | Ohms (R) | OL | OL | OL |

*My boyfriend told me this is considered: OL establishes “Out of Limits” or the amount of resistance that can’t be measured by this instrument.

| 1 | 2 | 3 | Brightness 1 Dark-5 Brightest | 0 | 0 | 0 |

* Results

The bar graph illustrates that my hypothesis is fairly accurate. Looking at the graph you can see how the over all length of the pencil effects the circuit. As the size (length) of the resistor increases, I saw the resistance increases as well. So the longer the resistor, the dimmer the light will be. Also the data collected shows: that as the resistance increases the applied voltage and amperage decreases. The decrease in the electrical flow though the circuit is also visible though the brightness of the light. So as you look over the above picture’s it shows: the longer the pencil resistor the dimmer the light was illuminated, the shorter the resistor the brighter the light.

* Conclusion

* My data was relatively accurate, as far as what I wanted to conclude out of the experiment. However there might be some cases where factors take place that would create some inaccuracies: a. The ruler: numbers could be hard to read, and or battered. This creates and in-accurate reading. b. Crocodile clips: placing them to be reasonably in line was tedious and hard, and made equipment set up very difficult. c. Crocodile clips: if rusty this might increase the resistance. d. Connection error: like I said prior, making a connection to the graphite without chipping is almost impossible. The graphite is very easily manipulated, and chips away easily by the alligator clip. Which ultimately if the chip is large enough, it could have affected the results of the resistance. But overall, it holds true that the shorter the resistor the brighter the light, which you see in the picture of the 2 inch pencil. Then when you look at the picture of the 6 inch pencil, it shows the light is very dim. The length of the resistor does affect the flow of electricity. So the longer the resistor the dimmer the light will be. Also if you use an insulated object like the Popsicle stick, it proves how the electrons need that graphite or something similar to travel/flow through. Over all, this experiment was a success. Though took time to do it accurately, so there was no human error.

Reference/Literature Review

1. Glover, David. 1993. Batteries, Bulbs, and Wire. New York, NY. Kingfisher. *This book was a recommendation on Science Buddies 2. Berger, Melvin. 1989. Switch On, Switch Off. New York, NY. Harper Trophy. *This book was a recommendation on Science Buddies 3. Cole, Joanna and Degen, Bruce. 1997. The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip. New York, NY. Scholastic Books. *This book was a recommendation on Science Buddies 4.

5. Scince Buddies, Pencil Resistor * Agee, Sarah, Ph. D. (Last edit date: 2009-03-15). Science Buddies. Pencil Resistor. Retrieved November 01, 2012, from 6. Surf this website for kids by the First Energy Corporation. Find out about electricity, history, efficiency and safety while having fun too! They also provide an excellent glossary: 
2005. "Electric Avenue." First Energy Corp. Akron, OH. [12/13/05] * First Energy Corporation. (2005). Electirc Avenue. Retrieved 12/11/12, from 7. Thelwell, Andy, 2005. "The Blobz Guide to Electrical Circuits." Staffordshire University, UK. [12/13/05] * Thelwell, Andy. (2005). The Blobz Guide to Electrical Circuits. Retrieved 12/11/12, from 8. The best place to buy the electronic parts/tools for exploring and playing with electricity is Radio Shack. Find all of your supplies on the online catalog: 
2012. "Radio Shack: Cables, Parts & Connectors". Radio Shack Corp. Fort Worth, TX. [12/13/05] * Radio Shack. (2012). Radio Shack Cables, Parts and Connectors. Retrieved 12/11/12, from .

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