Make your own flashlight using a few simple everyday items! This hands-on project is not only fun and easy to make but illustrates how a switch works, so it can be a great introductory project for teachers.
Although, if using this project as a hands-on activity at an educational event or mini-maker faire, I'd suggest prepping through to Step 2. Then just have participants add the final copper tape strip, battery, and LED. Shouldn't take them more than 5 minutes, 10 minutes if they're really young (and then you'd probably want to enlist mom/dad's help)!
Step 1: Materials
Jumbo popsicle stick (although a thin one would work too, found at your local craft store)
medium size metal binder clip
copper wire (22 guage, solid)
3V coin cell battery (CR 2032)
LED (I'm using a 10mm LED, but a standard LED will work too)
copper tape (or tin foil, if you really want to keep costs down)
non-conductive tape (masking, electrical, scotch, duct, etc)
hot glue gun & glue sticks
Step 2: Make the Switch
First, you'll need to remove the second leg of the metal binder clip. Simply pinch the sides together near the top of the clip and wiggle it out.
Using a little hot glue, adhere the metal binder clip flat onto the popsicle stick, about 1.5" from one end. Make sure not to use too much hot glue or the copper wire won't fit through the binder's hole.
Next, cut (and strip if necessary) about 2.5" - 3" of copper wire. Feed the wire through the two holes of the binder clip. Previously, these holes were holding the leg we removed. Twist the wire around the back of the popsicle stick and try to make it lay flat.
Then, take one strip of copper tape (or tin foil) and place it on the back of the popsicle stick. It should cover the twisted copper wire and go almost to the end, leaving about .25" - .5" at the other end of the popsicle stick free.
Step 3: Add the Battery
Flip your popsicle stick back over, so the metal binder clip is facing up.
Lay another piece of copper tape (or tin foil) down the front of the popsicle stick. It should run from one end to about .5" from the metal clip. Make sure it doesn't touch the metal clip or your flashlight won't work (because positive and negative will be touching).
Bend the extra bit of copper tape back, so the sticky side is up, place the positive side of the battery (the smooth side) down onto the sticky copper tape and press it firmly down so it touches and lays flat against the popsicle stick.
Here's a good time to test if you've placed everything in a good spot. Flip the metal leg down. It should touch the negative side of the battery. If it doesn't, move your battery closer or farther away until you're happy with it's placement and the metal leg touches the battery. Make sure your battery isn't touching the metal leg; otherwise, you're light won't work.
Step 4: Add the LED & Enjoy!
The final step is adding the LED! If you've followed my steps thus far, the positive side is the top (or side with the metal clip) and the negative side is the bottom (or side with the twisted wire).
The LED's cathode (long lead) goes on top, and it's anode (short lead) goes on the bottom. Affix your LED in place with some non-conductive tape. Make sure both leads are touching their respective copper tape sides. If you want to test that your light works before taping it in place, just flip the switch.
If your light doesn't work, here are a few common debugging solutions:
- make sure you've got the LED leads touch their respective correct sides
- make sure the copper tape is firmly adhered to the twisted copper wire on the back
- make sure the battery isn't touching the metal clip
- make sure the battery is laying flat and touching the copper tape on top
Once your LED is in place and taped onto the popsicle stick, you're done! Flip the switch and enjoy your very own LED Popsicle Flashlight!
I'd love to see any variations to this project! Have fun making!