Snap Circuits is the Best Tool for Teaching Electrical Engineering

Snap Circuits is a phenomenal resource for teaching electrical engineering, but it can be a bit confusing to get started with. Our guide explains exactly what you need for the best possible experience.

We are not sponsored by Snap Circuits and do not otherwise have a business relationship with Elenco.

The Best Tool For Electrical Engineering

Snap Circuits allows students to construct sophisticated electric circuits simply by snapping individual components (e.g., wires, resistors, switches, batteries, etc.) into place. In practice, it feels very much like building with LEGO or other block toys – except in this case, the resulting constructions form a fully functioning circuit.

Students who spend a significant amount of time with Snap Circuits will develop some impressive electrical engineering skills along the way. They’ll learn exactly what each component of a circuit does, read circuit diagrams, think intelligently about circuit design, and learn how many of the electrical devices around them work.

There are many other products that offer students an opportunity to design and build real circuits, but in our opinion, none of them can match the quality and affordability of Snap Circuits. We’re certainly not the only people who believe this: Snap Circuits are both highly reviewed and extremely popular.

A Confusing Mess of Products

Sometimes, popularity can be a double-edged sword. In response to high demand, Elenco (the company behind Snap Circuits) has released a massive number of different Snap Circuit kits. This is mostly a good thing, but it also means that parents who are interested in getting their kids started with Snap Circuits are liable to have a confusing experience selecting a specific kit.

Even Elenco seems to realize that this is a problem, and has created a spreadsheet-style list of all Snap Circuit products. Frankly, it’s an intimidating mess. One of the keys to understanding it is to first realize that there are basically two main categories of Snap Circuit kits: “basic sets”, and “themed sets”.

Basic Sets

The main line of Snap Circuit products, which Elenco sometimes calls “basic sets”, includes Snap Circuits Junior (a.k.a. “SC100”), Snap Circuits Classic (a.k.a. “SC300”), Snap Circuits Pro (a.k.a. “SC500”), and Snap Circuits Extreme (a.k.a. “SC750”). Here’s the most important thing to understand about the basic sets: the bigger basic sets contain everything from the smaller sets. In other words, if you’re going to get Snap Circuits Extreme, there’s no need to get any of the other basic sets.

Themed Sets

There are also many other Snap Circuit products that focus on a specific theme, such as “Snap Circuits Motion”, “Snap Circuits Light”, and “Snap Circuits Explore Coding”. Because of their smaller scope compared to the basic sets, these sets aren’t quite as useful for teaching broad electrical engineering concepts, which is our primary concern in this post. That having been said, some of the themed sets are excellent, and we may write blog posts about them in the future.

All the Snap Circuit kits can be used together to create larger circuits (if you know what you’re doing), so if your child really enjoys Snap Circuits, feel free to purchase a few extra kits.

Snap Circuits Motion is fun, but not necessary for our curriculum.

You Only Need the Largest Basic Set (Snap Circuits Extreme)

For the purpose of our main engineering guide, only a single basic set is necessary: Snap Circuits Extreme.

Easy, right? Well… there’s still one more complication. Because nothing can be simple, there are two variants of Snap Circuits Extreme: “SC750”, and “SC750-R”.

SC750 vs SC750-R

SC750-R and SC750 are largely similar, but SC750-R includes a few things SC750 doesn’t: most notably, a nice carrying case, a student’s guide, a teacher’s guide, and a few extra components. The carrying case and extra components are nice additions, but aren’t necessary. On the other hand, the student’s guide is absolutely essential. For this reason, SC750-R is the most straightforward way to get everything you need.

The Student Guide is important.

That having been said, Elenco has generously made the student and teacher guides available as free downloads. Elenco states that the manuals will remain available for download for a “limited time”, but does not specify the duration in more detail. In the meantime, we strongly recommend that you go ahead and download the manuals, in case Elenco does eventually remove them. Be sure to save the files to a location on your computer where you can find them (in most browsers, right click on the “download” button and then click “Save link as…”). Note that there are two different student guides: a Classic Student Guide (which consists of two parts that must be downloaded separately), and a Student Guide Junior. You want both parts of the Classic Student Guide, as well as the Teacher Guide.

Your two options are thus:

  • Option 1: Purchase Snap Circuits SC750-R (currently available for $191.19 on Amazon).
  • Option 2: Download the free online guides, if they are still available. Then purchase Snap Circuits SC750 (currently available for $134.99 on Amazon). If you go this route, we strongly recommend that you download the manuals before purchasing the SC750 kit, in case Elenco decides to remove them from its site in the future.
This is what SC750 looks like. SC750-R comes in a large plastic carrying case.

Consider Making Snap Circuits Available at a Young Age

In our complete guide to PK-12 engineering, we recommend dedicating 9th grade to studying electrical engineering using Snap Circuits. That doesn’t mean you need to wait until high school to get started, though! In fact, we encourage you to introduce your child to Snap Circuits as soon as possible.

Elenco advertises SC750 as being accessible to children as young as eight. Although elementary age children are unlikely to fully appreciate the theory and logic behind every project, they can absolutely begin to construct circuits and develop an intuition about how electrical engineering works.

If you’re following our guide, 5th grade is a great place to introduce Snap Circuits, as we don’t assign any other hands-on engineering activities for that grade level. Prior to 9th grade, it’s fine for children to just have fun constructing the circuits. There’s no need for formal integration into the school schedule, and students don’t need to read the Student’s Guide if they don’t want to.

Using Snap Circuits In 9th Grade

At a minimum, 9th grade students should:

  • Read everything in the Student Guide, while constructing each circuit depicted in the Student Guide along the way.
  • Complete the quizzes in the Student Guide.
  • Complete the quiz from the Teacher Guide.

Ideally, they should also construct all the other projects from the instruction manuals (many of which aren’t used in the Student Guide).

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