Operation Valentine: A Game, a Gift, a Lesson in Electric Circuits

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Picture of Operation Valentine:  A Game, a Gift, a Lesson in Electric Circuits
Who said learning couldn’t be fun?  With “Operation Valentine,” a class can apply what they have learned about electric circuits and connections and end up creating a project that is sure to be a hit at home.  This project not only is a great classroom project for the student building it, but the finished game/toy can also be used to help younger students practice beginning reading skills and fine motor skills.  This is also a great gift to valentines of all ages.  Everyone, young and old, loves those little conversational hearts, and playing this game is quite addicting!

Instructional Objective:  By making the “Operation Valentine” project, students will apply their knowledge of simple electric circuits to create a game that can be used to help younger students practice beginning reading skills and fine motor skills.

Recommended ages:
To build
“Operation Valentine”:  grades 3 and up
To play “Operation Valentine”:  ages 4 and up

Where the idea came from
I often volunteer in my son’s classroom leading math games and crafts that I have designed.  I got the idea for making this game after chaperoning my son’s class in an Electric Circuit class at our local science museum.  The next day, he did not have school, so he wanted to make something with circuits.  I searched online trying to find ideas for making games with circuits.  The game, “Operation,” kept coming up, but all the suggestions related to these game required supplies that either I did not have or that were very expensive to make.  I also wanted to make a project that can be made in an hour or less with inexpensive items that most people would have in their home or classroom.

Format of the “Operation Valentine”  Instructable
Since I am designing this project to not only be used to teach children as young as 8 years old about circuits but also for children and adults to enjoy this as a gift or a toy, the format of my “Operation Valentine”  Instructable will be as follows:

Part I:  Prep work (done by an adult)
Part II:  Teacher’s instructions and project building done by students
Part III:  How to play “Operation Valentine”
Part IV:  Variations

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jim_20003 years ago
Amazing and so simple. Who would have guessed the light bulbs would work with 9 volts?
mathiemom (author)  jim_20003 years ago
And most people have a strand of lights that won't work when plugged in! It is such an inexpensive way to play with circuits! There is also so much usable insulated wire on each strand of lights.
WYE_Lance3 years ago
Thank you for sharing this simple yet highly engaging and creative project. Using old xmas lights is genius! I'm interested in trying something like this in my own class. How could the prep time for this project be reduced, especially cutting out the boxes? Is there any step that you find students tend to need extra help? Thanks again!
mathiemom (author)  WYE_Lance3 years ago
I also find that putting kids in pairs to help attach and tape the wires to the battery helps. Sometimes 4 hands are better than 2! Also, for troubleshooting, two brains are better than one. This also makes the students more responsible for their projects rather than asking the teacher for help. Another suggestion is to ask a couple of parents to volunteer to operate a "help desk" or a roving "geek squad" where the students check their connections and get help with troubleshooting.
mathiemom (author)  WYE_Lance3 years ago
For a class of 12 students, it takes me a total of one hour to do all of the prep steps for all 12 projects. All wire cutting and stripping is done together, all wire hearts are bent at once, etc. This all-at-one-time prep approach is most time conserving for cutting the heart opening in the boxes. The most difficult and important step is making sure the holes in the notches around the heat opening are positioned correctly so that the paper fasteners and the paperclip heart fit properly.
jennie.worley1 made it!2 months ago

This might be too hard for the students, as the box is so small, but I might try it with the cereal box variation. This was pretty easy. Only took me about half an hour, and that is only because I didn't have the instructions hand when I made it, and I had to do it from memory (and mine isn't so sharp!).

ecsaul2310 months ago
I started this project with my instructables club yesterday. we made a few changes though. we used tin foil instead of a paper clip and talked about conductors and insulators. We also used coin batteries instead because the 9volt was frying my lights. It is a very popular project to participate in.
ecsaul231 year ago

This is awesome!!! I think my Instructables club needs to try this one

J-Five2 years ago
So cute
mathiemom (author)  J-Five2 years ago
Thank you! It always brings a smile to everyone.
Truly inspired an inspiring!
mathiemom (author)  masynmachien3 years ago
Wow! Thanks so much!
TashaDax3 years ago
Great project! And not just for kids either :)
Have a question: Are the paper fasteners just there to hold the heart in place?
mathiemom (author)  TashaDax3 years ago
The paperfasteners are there to hold the heart in place and to cover the sharp ends on the paperclip heart. However, they conduct electricity and make the game a little more challenging. :)
Ok, good, since I can't find any of those, so I was just thinking of connecting it up with thread or something :)
mathiemom (author)  TashaDax3 years ago
The paper fastener also covers the sharp ends of the paperclip that are at the top if the heart. I'm not sure of a replacement that will conduct electricity and cover the sharp ends.
mygibzone3 years ago
This is an AMAZINGLY creative idea. I love it. My favorite thing about it is that it is SUPER cheap. That's what I'm all about. It's an added bonus that it's educational too!
mathiemom (author)  mygibzone3 years ago
Thanks! Cheap and easy are my criteria for good projects. I do not have the time or the $ to indulge in difficult projects.
Carleyy3 years ago
This is such an awesome creative project! I think I need to make this for my boyfriend for Valentines Day!
mathiemom (author)  Carleyy3 years ago
Boys of all ages seem to love it! Most of them are very tempted to undo the box to see how it works.