Happy Trails to You
Howdy, Pardner. What do cowboys and computers have in common? The same thing that lets the computer respond when you move the joystick is what lets the movie cowboy always hit the can on the fencepost. Circuits! Now, please don't take the back off a computer and look at all the tiny, tiny circuits on all the circuit boards inside. Somebody might get a little upset if you didn't put it back together just right. Instead, you can make your own special effect using a simple circuit.

• You will need: two 18-inch pieces of insulated copper wire, two flashlight bulbs, two size-D batteries, masking tape, markers, scissors, index cards, glue, and one adult.
• Use the scissors to peel the insulation off the ends of the wires. How can you connect a bulb, wires, and a battery to make the bulb light? Try it lots of different ways until you've shown your adult how it works. When you succeed, you've made a circuit! Draw a picture of the way that worked.
• Now for the special effect. Your scene requires that lights go on mysteriously, go off mysteriously, or blink mysteriously. Create your own story using this idea.
• Draw and cut out scenery and actors and glue them to your index cards.
• Wire your circuit so that the battery and wires can't be seen. (You can hide them behind your set.) For a bigger effect, add an extra bulb and battery. Then play out your scene with your new circuit.
• Before you ride off into the sunset, here are a few questions to think about. What are the parts of the circuit you built? What does each part do?
• What special effects have you seen that might use circuits? Why would circuits be useful for the effect?
• And next time you see that cowboy shoot a hole in each tin can without a single miss, think about circuits. When the switch is pulled, the cans go off before you can say "Whoopee Ti Yi Yo." The cowboy doesn't have real bullets so it doesn't matter where he aims!

Curious for an answer? Look Behind the Scenes.

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