Our school Maker Club has been working with electric circuits: Squishy Circuits, Makey Makey, Circuit Scribe, and Little Bits. Since it seems important that a Maker Club actually make something, paper circuit greeting cards became a goal.
As usual, the project was harder than I anticipated. For some reason, I thought that there would be lots of simple instructions on the web; I knew I hadn’t just dreamed up the idea. But when it came down to it, most of the instructions looked a bit too complicated for our group of 24 second through fourth graders. You can judge for yourself:
- Exploratorium Paper Circuits
- Taping Paper Circuits
- How to Make Paper Circuit Greeting Card That Lights Up
- Let it Glow Holiday Cards
- Paper Electronics Template Cards
We don’t have a soldering iron, and I didn’t like the look of binder clips on a greeting card, so I pulled together what I’d learned from the above resources, and came up with a variation that would work for us. First we made Mother’s Day cards. Next I came up with a prototype for Father’s Day cards that they can make at home using the supplies we have provided in a baggie.
The main items you need to make this work are:
- Copper Tape (available on Amazon.com) – about 6-8 inches for each card
- LED Stickers (available at Maker Shed or Chibitronics) NOTE: You can also use LED’s with resistors instead of the stickers. – 1 for each card
- Coin Cell 3V batteries (available on Amazon.com) – 1 for each card
Chibitronics has a good Starter Kit that is available at several online stores. It includes a “Sketchbook” which you can also download for free here. We introduced the students to what we were going to be doing by having them do the simple circuit on page 20.
The hardest thing for the young ones is keeping the copper tape in one piece around the corners. Instead of cutting it for your corners, you need to fold it over itself to ensure conductivity continues.
Noticing their difficulty, and worried about time constraints for the Mother’s Day cards, I went ahead and applied the copper tape to the die-cut hearts ahead of time. The students added the rest. You can see some of the results below.
Each student had 2 die-cut hearts – the bottom one with the circuit and a top one that they wrote on and I punched a hole in. To affix the battery to the bottom, they used glue dots (be careful that the dot is not too high or it will keep the battery from connecting with the tape). To affix the top heart to the bottom we used foam mounting squares similar to these.
I didn’t want to leave fathers out, but we only have one more Maker Club meeting. So, I made a new prototype and we will be giving the students these instructions along with the pieces for assembly. The basic circuit construction is the same as the Mother’s Day card. I plan to encourage the students to make their own design, but I know that many of the younger ones, in particular, will prefer having some guidelines.
If you are interested in the “Everything is Awesome” portion of the card, here is a free printable.