Skip to Main Content
Outreach to K–12 schools is important for attracting students to electrical engineering. Circuits kits provide K–12 students hands-on interactions with electrical circuits. The goal of this experimental study was to investigate the effects of two types of electrical circuit element representations on the self-reported perceptions of the outreach activity and learning of elementary and high school students. In the abstract representation type, the circuit elements were marked with the standard engineering symbols. In the concrete representation type, the circuit elements, such as batteries and light bulbs, were familiar to the students. Perceived student enjoyment, understanding, and cognitive load were assessed through surveys. Student learning was measured with a post-test. The impacts of student gender and developmental level were also analyzed. Results indicate that for elementary school students, the concrete representation led to higher understanding ratings and lower cognitive load ratings than the abstract representation, while there was no difference in student learning between the two representation conditions. For high school students, there were no significant differences in student perceptions or learning between the two representation conditions. However, male high school students gave significantly higher interest and understanding ratings as well as lower cognitive load ratings than their female counterparts, even though there was no significant difference in student learning between the genders. Elementary school students reported higher enjoyment for the circuits kit activity and higher cognitive load than the high school students.