An Introduction to Paper Circuits
What Will You Learn?
In this project you’ll make your own LED circuit card and learn how to design both series and parallel circuits to light up your creation!
This project is a sample from our Circuit Scouts Kit, available in the Maker Shed with all the materials you need, a guidebook and educator’s curriculum.
Practicing with Conductive Tape
Today Maker Tape will be used to conduct electricity in our circuit. So that we don’t waste this valuable resource, we’re going to practice with masking tape on a table first.
Start by using your masking tape to create straight lines, sharp angles, and curves. (Figure 3a)
Whenever possible, we want to use continuous pieces of tape, even when changing direction.
To create a right angle, we fold the corners. Lay down tape to the edge of the corner. Then fold your tape in the opposite direction you want to turn so that the sticky side is face up and flatten the tape. Next, fold the tape back over in the direction of your turn and flatten again. (Figure 3b)
Practice this fold several times with masking tape and then practice with Maker Tape on scrap paper. Try different corners and curves. Need more help? Try this tutorial.
Using the Templates
Next, we’re going to use the template to make a series circuit and a parallel circuit. Start with the series circuit.
Pick an LED. Remember that the long lead is the positive side and the short lead is the negative side
Gently bend the leads out from the center so that the LED can fit flatly against the paper. Be careful not to break the leads off the LED. If desired, mark the positive lead with black marker for easy identification.
Place the LED on the paper as shown, being careful to line up positive and negative leads correctly.
Apply Maker Tape along the lines on the template and OVER the leads of the LED. Use your finger or fingernail to press the tape down against the LED leads. (Figure 3c)
Make a small loop of Maker Tape with the sticky side facing out. Use this to attach your battery to the paper with the negative side down. (Figure 3d and 3e)
Fold the paper over along the dotted line and press down to complete the circuit. Your LED should light up!
Complete both templates. How are they the same? How do they differ?
If your LED doesn’t light up, you may need to troubleshoot your circuit.
Check for breaks or tears in the Maker Tape path and patch them if needed.
Make sure the positive side of the battery is connected to the positive side of the LED, and the negative side of the battery is connected to the negative side of the LED. Students can experiment with turning the battery over.
Make sure the LED is solidly connected to the Maker Tape path. Press down on the LED to test if the connection is an issue.
Make sure the battery is not out of charge.
Make sure you are not “shorting” the circuit by overlapping the Maker Tape in the wrong location or allowing the tape to touch both sides of the battery. A short allows current to travel along an unintended path.
Need more help? Chibitronics has a great Troubleshooting Guide.