Introduction: Circuit Making: the Workshop

This instructable serves as documentation for the "Circuit Making workshop", a tinkering activity conceived at Muse Fablab.

The aim of the workshop is to enable a hands-on, as well as theoretical understanding of electrical circuits. The following concepts are explored:

  • input, output, power
  • electrical current
  • conductors, semiconductors, and resistors
  • short circuit
  • basic logic gates (AND, OR)
  • series and parallel circuits

The partecipants are given a set of 8 magnetic building blocks called "modules" which will allow them to test several kinds of electrical circuits.

The circuits are created on metal pads, using aluminium strips as "bridges" between the modules.

The building of the modules, as well as the support material preparation is described in the instructable Circuit Making: the Modules.

The recommended age for this activity is 8+.

Step 1: The Electric Current Flow

Create the first circuit using the 9 Volt Battery module and the LED module. Place them on the metal pad and connect them with aluminium foil stripes.

Pay attention to the current flow. If everything has been placed correctly, the LED should light up.

Step 2: Conductive Materials

Open the circuit and try to close it again using several kinds of materials. If they are electrical conductors or semiconductors, the LED will light up. If they aren't, it won't change its state.

Step 3: Resistors

Now put an input inside your circuit. Try the LDR, which will act as variable resistor, and change the LED output in relation to light registered by the sensor.

Step 4: Short Circuit

Now let's think back to the first circuit. If we were to place another aluminium stripe across it, we would end up creating a short circuit.

The LED wouldn't light up and the 9 V Battery would overheat. We suggest not trying this at home.

Step 5: The Switch

Now let's try turning the light on and off using the Switch module.

Step 6: Basic Logic Gates

Now we will try two basic logic gates called "AND" and "OR".

As you can see, the "AND" circuit will work properly when both ports are closed.

The "OR" circuit, on the other hand, will work when one of the two ports is closed.

Step 7: Parallel Circuits

Let's move back once again to the first circuit, only this time we will add a second output. Both will work at the same time, because they are connected in parallel.

Step 8: RGB LED

Now it's time to try out the RGB LED module. Using the Switch, you will be able to turn on and off the individual lights inside the module. As you can see, one is Red, one is Green, and one is Blue.

Step 9: Potentiometer

Now let's tinker with the Potentiometer. The Potentiometer is a variable resistor, which will change the outcome of our output.

Let's first try using it with the regular LED. As you turn the knob, the light will slowly fade.

Once you've experienced that, try using it with the RGB LED. As you turn the knob, the three colors will simultaneously change. This will result is some very cool visual effects.

Step 10: Conclusion

Once you've tested all the circuits, try making up some of your own. You could built a doorbell, or a house alarm.

Get tinkering and let your imagination run free!

Words by Margherita Ferrari, MUSE FabLab