What is a Switch?


  • Three (3) Wires
  • Batteries Block
  • Lightbulb Block
  • Knife Switch Block
  • Push-button Block

A switch is a way of using an action, something we DO, to close a gap in a circuit to make a complete pathway for electricity to travel. Make a circuit with the Batteries Block, Knife Switch Block, and Lightbulb Block. What do you have to do to get the light to turn on? Describe what you did. Name your action: do you push, pull, flick, or hold the switch? Describe what the component does. Trace the pathway from the positive side of the batteries, through the wire, switch, lightbulb, and back to the negative side of the batteries. Notice how the pathway is broken or open when the switch is up, and how it is continuous or closed when the switch is down. It only takes one gap anywhere in a circuit to keep electricity from flowing.

A switch has a conductive pathway with a place where electricity travels into the pathway, a place where electricity travels out of the pathway and a way to open and close a gap within the pathway.

Remove the Knife Switch Block from the pathway and put the Push-button Block in its place. How does this switch work? What does it do? When you push the push-button, in what position would the knife switch be to match? When you release the push-button, what in position would the knife switch be to match? Name the action you use to make this switch work.

Knife, push-button, rocker, toggle, slide and rotary are types of switches. Switches are used to open and close pathways in circuits and control our electric and electronic devices. There are many other types of switches. Look around- how many types of switches can you find?