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Short Circuit

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Short Circuit

In this activity about electricity, learners explore what happens when you blow a fuse. Learners short-circuit a battery using copper wire (a good conductor with very low resistance) and thin iron wire. Learners will discover that when they connect the clip to the iron wire, the voltage of the battery pushes electrons through the circuit against the resistance of the iron wire, causing the iron wire to heat up. Note: the wire gets very hot! Use this activity to introduce learners to basics of electricity including conductivity, resistance, and currents as well as electronics safety and circuit breakers.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • A fresh 6-volt or 12-volt lantern battery
  • A length of copper wire with alligator clips attached to each end (or a test lead) from any electronics supply store.
  • A strand of very fine iron wire, about 5 to 6 inches (13 to 15 cm) long. (You can get this by unbraiding a short length of picture-hanging wire or any braided iron wire.)
  • Adult help


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Electrical Engineering
      • Fire Protection Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • Electricity and Magnetism
      • Electric Charges and Currents
      • Electric Circuits
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations

Informal Categories

  • Electronics


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All Rights Reserved, The Exploratorium,

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation
  • California Department of Education
  • NEC Foundation of America


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