Development of 3-D Mechanical Models of Electric Circuits and Their Effect on Students’ Understanding of Electric Potential Difference

  • Nuri Balta


Visualizing physical concepts through models is an essential method in many sciences. While students are mostly proficient in handling mathematical aspects of problems, they frequently lack the ability to visualize and interpret abstract physical concepts in a meaningful way. In this paper, initially the electric circuits and related concepts were taught to tenth grade students traditionally, then, once more, only concepts of electric potential and electric potential difference were taught to them along with 3-D mechanical models of electric circuits developed by the author and finally the effectiveness of the models was assessed. A twelve-item achievement test was given to twenty-two female students from the tenth grade as pre-and post-tests to assess students’ comprehension of the concept of electrical potential. We showed that working and, more so interacting, with 3- D electrical circuits in a classroom-improved students’ understanding of the idea of electrical potential. Initial experience of using 3-D models of the electrical circuits in a high school physics course is also reported.


Al-Holou, N. & Ibrahim, F. (2014). Using Analogy to Enhance Understanding of Electrical Circuits. Retrieved July 03, 2012 from
Cohen, R. Eylon, B. & Ganiel, U. (1983). Potential difference and current in simple electric circuits: A study of students’ concepts American Journal of Physics. 51, 407-412.
Cosgrove, M. (1995). A study of science-in-the-making as students generates an analogy for electricity. International Journal of Science Education, 17, 295-310.
De Jong, M. L. (1993). Graphing electric potential. Physics Teacher, 31, 270-272.
Duit, R. (1990). On the role of analogies, similes and metaphors in learning science. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Boston.
Fraenkel, J. R. & Wallen, N. E. (1996). How to design and evaluate research in education, 6th ed., New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 174-175.
Grant, R. (1996). Basic Electricity—A Novel Analogy. Physics Teacher, 34, 188-189.
Greenslade Jr. T. B. (2003). The hydraulic analogy for electric current. Physics Teacher, 41, 464–466.
Mario, I. (1983). The concept of voltage. Physics Teacher, 21, 405-406.
Minich, T. (2005). Conceptualizing series and parallel circuits through 3-D modeling. Physics Teacher. 43, 448-451.
Pfister, H. (2004). Illustrating Electric Circuit Concepts with the Glitter Circuit. Physics Teacher, 42, 359-363.
How to Cite
BALTA, Nuri. Development of 3-D Mechanical Models of Electric Circuits and Their Effect on Students’ Understanding of Electric Potential Difference. European Journal of Physics Education, [S.l.], v. 6, n. 1, p. 15-24, feb. 2017. ISSN 1309-7202. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 08 june 2023.