Circuit Board Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

Have you ever wondered how your cell phone or computer works? One important part of these devices is a circuit board. In this lesson, you'll learn what a circuit board is, how it's made, and what it does.

Electrical Circuits

Have you ever made an electrical circuit using wires, a cell (battery), and a light bulb? In this very simple version of an electrical circuit, the cell provided the electricity, which flowed through the wires (conductors) and the light bulb lit up!

Think about the cellphones, radios, computers, televisions, and other electronic devices people use every day. They all have very tiny electrical circuits inside of them - let's look at how these circuits are made.

Circuit Boards

Most of the electronic devices we use every day use circuit boards. The base layer of a circuit board is often made of plastic or other material that does not conduct, or allow, electricity to flow through it. This is important because the circuit is built upon this base layer. Electricity will flow through the circuit but not through the base.

Several components, or parts, are attached to the board and connected to make a circuit. The components on the circuit board are often connected with copper wires that let the electricity flow from one component to another. The circuit board can control which of the components get power and in what order.

When a battery or other power source provides electricity to the board, it flows along the wires to each of the components on the circuit board. Let's look at how a circuit board is made.

Parts of a Circuit Board

Base

The first layer is made of plastic or a similar product that doesn't conduct electricity. This is the base layer.

Copper Foil

The next layer of the circuit board is usually a thin layer of copper foil. Copper is an excellent conductor of electricity. Some circuit boards have only one layer of copper. However, there can be as many as 16 layers or more in some very complex circuit boards.

In the pictures of the circuit boards shown in this lesson, did you notice the layer of green material? This green layer is called the soldermask (pronounced SOD-er). The soldermask acts like an insulator; it keeps certain components from touching the copper layer.

Solder is a metal, usually tin or lead, that melts very easily and is used to fasten metals together. The solder applied to this layer connects the components to each other on the circuit board.

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