Burglar Alarms

Today’s story is also from the Excel Grant Archive Vault (2010) – and it begins as most adventures do – with the proposal:

 Burglar Alarms “Students will read and follow directions to make burglar alarms. They will make 3 kinds of alarms with different loads (buzzer, motor or light bulb). Student engagement increases when they make something that is practical and hands on. This project will engage student’s learning because they will change load variables (light, buzzer or motor) to create a desired outcome. Students will make burglar alarms that will light up, make a sound or start a motor. This project is another opportunity to reintroduce scientific terms such as variables, control and troubleshooting.” ~ Jeannette Yee, ~ 4th Grade Teacher at Parkside Elementary School.

Burglar AlarmsThe results: Two classes of 4th grade students made burglar alarms.

  • This grant allowed our students to read and follow directions (applying reading skills to functional text).
  • We read the directions together and discussed what the burglar alarms should look like.
  • We discussed the components of the alarm, the control pieces and the variables and the three kinds of loads we were going to change.
  • Students made alarms that used a lightbulb, a buzzer and a motor.
  • Students learned how to troubleshoot the circuit when the circuit did not work.
  • We discussed everyday items that work like our burglar alarms: grocery store buzzers, house doorbell, game show buzzers, fire alarms, land mines, etc.

Students figured out that switches can be made differently but basically work the same way. During our electric unit, they made paperclip switches and with this project they made pressure switches. They learned that there are three kinds of loads – light, buzzer and motor. Students only worked with lights during our whole Electrical Circuit Unit and this provided them with an opportunity to work with other kinds of loads.

Students planned, tested and problem solved (troubleshoot) when the lights, buzzers or motor did not work. We discussed the system as a whole, the components and functions of each component.

It was a great project to showcase the control and variable part of a science experiment.

Burglar Alarms 001How to Make a Burglar Alarm from “175 More Science Experiments to amuse and amaze your friends” by Cash, Parker, Taylor, page 65

Equipment: battery, wires, thin cardboard, aluminum foil, cellophane tape, small buzzer, a bulb in a bulb holder or a motor.

  1. Cut a piece of cardboard about 6 in. by 3 in. and fold it in half.
  2. Tape strips of foil around cardboard.
  3. Tape a wire to each piece of foil.
  4. Join the wires into a circuit with the battery and buzzer, a bulb or motor.
  5. Set up your burglar alarm near a door so that anyone coming through the door will tread on the card and set off the buzzer, make the bulb light up or start the motor running.

How it works: When the two pieces of foil are pressed together, the circuit is complete and electricity can flow.


If you are a teacher in the Highline Schools District and are interested in our Excel Grant program, you can find more information on our website. Grant requests are accepted each fall, and we announce the program on our website and Facebook.

Since 1999, the Highline Schools Foundation has been supporting innovation and excellence in Highline Public Schools. Our funding priorities focus on programs to improve academic achievement, supporting college and career readiness, grants to teachers for engaging classroom projects, the arts, athletics, and programs that keep students in school and productive. Highline is a district full of need and opportunity. The Highline Schools Foundation is the only non-profit organization dedicated to all schools in our district—our goal is to help as many students as possible be successful!

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