Introduction: Blinky Paper Robot - 1st Paper Circuit Project

About: I teach computer science and I do graphic design for printed bags, clothing, housewares, and much more. (, and…

This fun little project is a fast, cheap introduction to paper circuits. It also makes use of sturdy self-standing paper people of my previous 'ible (

Blinky is a happy little robot with a cheerful red light on his head. The red bulb lights up whenever he thinks about all the smart, creative and productive people in the Instructable community... so basically, it's lit up all the time. You can control the light with a squeeze, or use a little clip to keep it turned on.

You can make your first Blinky in about an hour. After that, you will want to make an army.

Step 1: Why Do You Need a Blinky Paper Robot?

Blinky will make you happy. (see attached video)

Blinky will help you find your way around the house at night.

Blinky will send messages with Morse code (with your help).

Blinky will impress your friends.

Blinky will teach you how to make a simple circuit, quickly and cheaply.

Step 2: Assemble Materials

STUFF YOU NEED TO BUY: You need to get the following physical material. I got all of this cheaply at my local electronics store, but you can also buy everything online.

  • 18" of copper foil tape with conductive adhesive [15 meters for $6 USD]
  • 3mm LED light [3 for $1.50 USD]
  • 3v "coin" battery [$1 USD each]

STUFF YOU PROBABLY HAVE: You may already have these things laying around:

  • sticky tape
  • scissors
  • pen or pencil
  • binder clip or paper clip
  • glue stick
  • heavy paper or card stock
  • printer

STUFF YOU DEFINITELY HAVE: You already have these things (because they are part of this Instructable!)

  • step-by-step instructions [this!]
  • paper robot pattern [use the jpg or pdf that is attached to this step]


OR Make your own pattern, using the instructions here:

Step 3: Cut and Assemble Your Paper Robot

Make your paper figure, using the pattern

  1. Print out your paper robot.
  2. Cut the sheet into four pieces.
  3. Fold the pieces.
  4. Cut out head, arms, legs and stand.
  5. Slot the legs, arms and head into stand.
  6. Admire your basic paper robot.


WANT MORE HELP? Very general instructions are here:

WANT HELP WITH BOUNCY MUSICAL ACCOMPANIMENT? More detailed steps are show in the attached video: "How to Make a Friend"

Step 4: Design a Circuit

This is where things get exciting.

You are going to make a simple closed loop circuit that connects the positive output from the battery, through the positive node on the LED, through the LED, and around to the negative side of the battery. When the circuit is completed (closed), the LED will light up.

First though, you have to make a path for the electricity to follow. Look at the pictures to help you.

Take your paper robot apart. Put the head, arms and leg pieces to the side for now.

Open up the folded paper robot stand.

Draw a path for the circuit from the bottom of each side of the stand, to the top. Each side needs a continuous line that avoids the slots.

Start from the top or bottom and stick the copper tape to the line. Leave a little extra at the foot that can wrap around the back.

Step 5: Add Power!

This cheap little battery will provide plenty of power for your Blinky Robot light.

Use a small piece of tape to stick the flat side of the battery to the inside of the positive side of the stand.

You only need to tape part of the battery.

You only need to tape one side of the battery.

Step 6: Let the Force Flow Through You

So far your circuit doesn't do anything because there is no connection between the positive and negative nodes of the battery.

Now look carefully at your LED. It should have two legs, one longer than the other. The long leg is the positive node.

Tape the positive node to the head on the positive side. Tape it down good.

Tape the negative node to the head on the negative side. Tape it real good.

Look at your circuit. Nothing is still happening.

Squeeze the foot parts together.

WOW. You made light!

(I used a binder clip to keep the circuit closed while I finish my Blinky Robot)

Step 7: It Lives! It LIVES!

Time to finish up your Blinky Robot.

First, clean up your paper robot pieces. Use a black sharpie to fill in any messy bits and glue the folds together.

Slot the legs, arms and head back into the stand.

Blinky Robot's LED glows with the power of the Light Side of the Force, and illuminates the serene features of your robot's face. Blinky Robot obviously thinks you are amazing and smart.


The light will stay on, as long as the positive and negative sides of the circuit are connected. Which is forever, as long as the binder clip stays attached to the stand.

But if you want to see Blinky send a message in morse code (like in the attached video*), remove the binder clip and gently pinch the circuit closed with your fingers.


* not really morse code