2.03.2017

Electronics Fun with Paper Circuits

Paper circuits are a super fun and non-threatening way to introduce circuits to students of all ages.

Inspiration

I first heard about these fascinating paper circuits from a digital fabrication course I took in my Educational Technology master's program. I also learned about Jie Qi, a genius artist that creates beautiful interactive paintings with copper tape.


Jie Qi is also the creator circuit stickers and the interactive Circuit Sticker Sketchbook. So, not only is she a genius artist, she also inspires others to explore their creativity with art and technology.


Classroom Integration

After learning all about these super cool paper circuits, I had to get them into classrooms! Luckily, 5th grade students learn about circuits in their "Energy Forms and Functions" unit, and I work with some pretty cool teachers that love trying new activities to engage their students! The past two years, I worked with 5th grade science teachers to integrate paper circuits into their curriculum, and we've found, paper circuits are a great way to teach/reinforce the properties of simple and parallel circuits! Students have so much fun making circuits from scratch. Outside the classroom, paper circuits have also proven to be a favorite activity in MakerSpace gatherings!

The cost for bulk paper circuit materials isn't the cheapest, however, I did a lot of searching and found the best deals on Amazon.

Here are the supplies:
  • Copper Tape (conductor) 
    • One roll with 55 yards of tape is enough for about 45 students. 
  • 3V Lithium Batteries (power source) 
    • Each student will need at least one battery. When I'm using these for class lessons, I order extra batteries for small group practice. I have students work in small groups to make a simple and parallel circuit. 
  • Light Emitting Diodes (load) 
    • You can buy one pack of 300 LEDs for less than $13.00. One pack is usually good for 100 students. It depends on how many LEDs each student uses. 
  • Small Binder Clips (holds the battery in place) 
    • Each student only needs one binder clip. The link above is for a pack of 144 clips! 
  • Scotch Tape (insulator... holds the LED wires in place) 
    • I just set out approximately one roll for every 4 to 5 students. Students only need a tiny bit of tape. 
  • Various Art Supplies 
    • Colored paper, scissors, markers, glue, etc.

Problem Solve

When I work with 5th grade classes, I have students work in groups to make a simple and parallel circuit using the materials above (minus the various art supplies), and paper circuit templates from Jie Qi's Circuit Sticker Sketch Book.

Design

After students make simple and parallel circuits in small groups, they design and create a circuit within a piece of art.


If all or some of the LEDs don't light up, students use the debugging pages (87-89) in Jie Qi's Circuit Sticker Sketchbook to guide them through troubleshooting their circuit.

Challenge

This year I pre-made open and closed paper circuits to help students better understand how circuits work. They used this handout to record predictions and the actual outcome when they added a power source to each circuit. This activity encouraged students to add switches and challenging designs to their individual circuits.




My goal is to recruit 4th grade teachers to try paper circuits with their students next year! :) Click here to download my 5E Model lesson plan I used with the 5th grade classes. You can tweak it to work for your students.

Other Electronic Fun!

Play Dough


Little Bits

Search any discount store retailer like, Target and you will find there are so many circuit kits for kids! I love how accesible electronics exploration is for kids now!