45-60 min
Session 1 of 0
In Progress

Advanced Bricks

Up to 1 hour


Ages 8 to 14

What Will You Learn?

Now that you’ve made your Core Bricks and built your first Scrappy Circuits, you may be looking for new challenges. These components offer advanced action bricks, new switches, and other useful items.e

Build the Buzzer Brick

Each dollar store carries a different version of this window alarm. They all are basically same, but the main way they differ is how you access the batteries. Some need a screwdriver. Some have the access in the front and others in the back.

Explore how your window alarm works. When the magnet is removed from the side, the alarm goes off.

Step 1

Turn off the window alarm. Remove batteries from the window alarm. (If needed, open the case.)

Step 2

Straighten two paper clips. Use pliers to create battery-sized loops at the end of each paper clip.

Step 3

Straighten two paper clips. Use pliers to create battery-sized loops at the end of each paper clip. Wrap the looped ends in aluminium foil.

Step 4

Cut a strip of cardboard. It should be the height of one of the removed batteries. Fold the cardboard in a zig-zag or accordion-style.

Step 5

Insert the folded cardboard between the aluminum foil.

Step 6

If batteries were on the inside, close the window alarm. Allow the two straightened paper clips to hang out of each side.

Step 7

Clip each straightened paper clip with a binder clip to the edge of your cardboard brick. Turn on.

Step 8

Label the Buzzer Brick

Build a Light Sensor Brick

The word “photo” means light. Resistors slow the flow of electricity. So a “photoresistor” uses light to slow the flow of electricity.

Make sure you’re in a well-lit room for this brick. Cover the photoresistor with your finger and watch what happens.

Make sure to sand the binder clips to make sure you have a great connection.

Build 9

Disassemble the LED night light and remove photoresistor. You will be able to see it from the front of the nightlight. It will be behind clear plastic.

Build 10

Stretch apart the legs of the photoresistor.

Build 11

Important: Sand each binder clip where it touches the photoresistor.

Build 12

Clip the binder clips around the photoresistor.

Build 13

Remove the bottom clips.

Build 14

Label the brick.

Knife Switch

Knife switches are very cool. They are usually much bigger. You might recognize them in movies like Frankenstein or Young Frankenstein.

Step 15

Add a rubber band across a brick. Clip two binder clips to the rubber band and then have them stand up.

Step 16

Attach a paper clip to the closed arms of a binder clip. Poke a paper fastener through cardboard, then binder arm, then paper clip, then the other binder arm, then another piece of cardboard. Separate the the fasteners legs.

Step 17

Open the other binder clip and add a small piece of paper or cardboard to keep the arms slightly separated.

Step 18

Attach the scrappy clips by sliding them onto the black clip of each binder clip.

Step 19


Tilt Switch

Tilt switches are very simple and a lot of fun. They close (complete the circuit and turn a brick on) by tilting the brick in a certain direction. These work great for alarms when they are connected with a piezo buzzer or LED light.

Step 20

Cut a short piece of a straw and tape it to a brick.

Step 21

Add a binder clip perpendicular to the straw. The bump at the end of the binder clip arm should rest right on the edge of the straw opening.

Step 22

Straighten the outside arm of a paper clip. Position the curved end of the paper clip inside the straw the exact same amount as the binder clip arm.

Step 23

Place a small piece of cardboard between the binder clip and the paper clip. Tape in place.

Step 24

Cut a piece of the straw about one inch long. Insert one leg (sharp part) of your scissors inside the straw and cut.

Step 25

Tighten the loop of your straw and tape. Wrap in aluminium foil.

Step 26

Test to see if when the aluminium-foil-wrapped-straw touches the binder clip arm and paper clip if it touches both the paper clip and binder arm and completes the circuit. You might want to do this by adding a power brick and LED brick to make a simple circuit.

Step 27

If everything works, then tape the straw closed. You don’t want the tape to be able to stick to the foil-wrapped-straw inside the straw. Before you tape the straw closed, add a little piece of tape to the tape itself — sticky side to sticky side. This way that part of the tape won’t be sticky and should cover the straw opening.

Step 28


The Resistor Brick

Resistors are very common. They slow down (resist) electricity. The colored bands code each resistor so you know how much electricity it allows through. If you find one in an old toy (and the legs are long enough) you can make a Resistor Brick.

Step 29

Find your resistor and if harvesting a resistor from stuff around the house, cut it out and try to keep the legs as long as possible.

Step 30

Find your resistor and if harvesting a resistor from stuff around the house, cut it out and try to keep the legs as long as possible.

Step 31

Add a binder clip to each side of your brick.

Step 32

Insert the resistor legs under the clips.

Step 33

Label the brick.

What's Next?

Mix It Up

How can you use these advanced bricks? Here are some ideas!

  • Pair your tilt switch with your LED. Attach both to a plastic car or piece of cardboard. send it down a slide on the playground or put it on a swing. What happens to the light as the switch moves?

  • Pair the Buzzer brick with a Core switch. Then learn to send Morse Code messages using instructions in the Scrappy Circuits Zine.

  • Pair your photoresistor with your LED Brick to make a cool nightlight.

  • Order or find different colored LEDs to make new bricks. Use the resistor bricks to combine multiple colors of LEDS into a circuit to make your own Fairy or Christmas lights. Or use resistors with your LED so you can use different batteries, like AA or AAA. Learn more!

Game On!

Want even more advanced bricks? Build the Baller Brick, Game Brick, or Hole in One Brick then pair it with your Buzzer to create fun games to play.

Scrappy Circuits - The Magic Wand and Buzzer Bricks

Take It Further

The Scrappy Circuits book is now available!

Scrappy Circuits is an imaginative “do-it-yourself” way to learn about electrical circuits for less than $1 per person. Raid your junk drawer for simple office supplies, add a little cardboard, pay a visit to a local dollar store, and you are on your way to countless fun projects for learning about electronics. No soldering or expensive equipment required.

Easy to read instructions and tons of step-by-step photos guide scrappy adventurers through the process of building over 40 unique “bricks” – DIY building blocks that can be combined into all sorts of fun and scrappy projects. Make things that light up, alarms that buzz, games that keep score, and learn about electronics, all while having fun along the way!

Scrappy Circuits features resources, step-by-step illustrated building instructions, project ideas, challenges, troubleshooting steps, jokes, and advice for teachers.

Michael June 5, 2021
Scrappy Circuits breaks down the many barriers to teaching and learning invention literacy like pre-requisite skills, cost, and access. It is a modular system of bricks built by the learner and sourced from commonly found objects. Binder clips act as terminals for electricity to travel through each brick and can be connected using alligator clips or homemade Scrappy Clips. The first five Scrappy Circuits bricks, known as the Core Bricks, can be constructed for around a dollar out of some office supplies, an LED tea-light, and an imagination. Larger groups can build these for around twenty dollars and each learner will be able to keep their bricks and continue to explore and invent. The learning doesn't stop there! The Scrappy Circuits journey can continue with many more bricks and projects all made out of common and inexpensive items.