What do 17 year old science students know (or not)?

This summer I had the opportunity to host five high school students at a UW science camp. I decided to give them a project where they could build circuits that could do addition and multiplication just using resistors.

I’ve been a high school teacher in the past so I though I knew the general level of education for 17 year olds. Let me remind everyone that we’re talking about students who are one year away from entering University. Let me say that again, they are one year away from entering University. This is what I found out:

1. They’ve never seen or used a multimeter before
2. They didn’t know what the symbol was for a battery or a resistor
3. They didn’t understand what the lines were between the circuit symbols (wires!)
4. They’d never heard of a capacitor
5. They’d never seen a breadboard before and had no idea what to with it.
6. They didn’t know the difference between DC and AC (or even what they were)

What is surprising was they did know about ohms law but didn’t know the symbol for an ohm. I am certain that if I asked them to wire up a battery and a light they would have been lost.

Is this the same country that landed men on the moon?

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