Electric Field and Potential

In this simulation, the student places fixed charges on a grid to create an electric field. The field and corresponding electric potential can then both be illustrated. Further, the student can select tools to measure the field and potential at various points. Lesson plan and homework resources are available for the teacher on this site. The electric field produced by a fixed, or static, charge distribution is an abstract concept, and students have a hard time visualizing it. Common ways of drawing the electric field can lead students to adopt the common misconception that field lines represent electric field vectors. This simulation, by providing the student with an electric field probe that depicts a field vector, allows students to correctly interpret the relationship between the electric field map and an electric field vector at a given point in space. Further, the link between the electric field and the electric potential can be explored with this simulation. Electric potential can be measured at various points in space with a voltmeter probe, enabling the student to see that positive absolute potentials exist near positive charges, negative absolute potentials exist near negative charges, and the electric field points in the direction of maximum negative potential change.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
CLE 3231.5.1
Examine the properties of electric forces, electric charges, and electric fields.
GLE 0801.1.2
Employ a variety of strategies and resources to determine the definition, pronunciation, and usage of words and phrases.
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
Learning objectives: 
  • Determine the variables that affect the strength and direction of the electric field for a static arrangement of charges.
  • Investigate the variables that affect the strength of the electrostatic potential (voltage).
  • Explain equipotential lines and compare them to the electric field lines.
  • For an arrangement of static charges, predict the electric field lines. Verify the prediction using vector addition.

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 

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