Last month's “Little Gem”1 described an activity designed to casually investigate the length of time AA and AAA batteries could keep a festive light glowing. The purpose of that activity was to pique student interest and to prepare them for deeper investigations concerning the potential difference, current, and energy that a battery supplies to a simple circuit. This follow-up experiment allows students to measure the actual current and potential difference provided by a variety of batteries as they work to exhaustion.2 

As shown in Fig. 1, students prepare a simple circuit connecting a battery to a bulb. They then connect a voltage probe across the terminals of the battery and a current probe is inserted into the conducting path. These probes are then attached to an interface box that is ultimately connected to a computer.

Each student team is assigned one of four different types of cells...

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