Introduction: LED Art With Paper Circuits (Lesson Plan)

About: I am a Makerspace/Technology Teacher on the International School of Aruba. I teach STEAM lessons in our Makerspace with kids from grade 4 till grade 12. I love tinkering, discovering and making, so I made it m…

Paper circuits are cool. The kids love it to create a simple circuit and get an LED light up. But after a while it gets a little boring. So I thought of a better use with paper circuits and teaching elementary students electronics. They were able to make these pieces of art with a maximum of 3 LEDs. I will write this Instructable as a lesson plan, but you can of course use it for your own joy as well.

Step 1: Materials

  • cardboard.
    It depends on how big you want it. I made it 20 by 30 cm. And how many you need for the amount of students.
  • LEDs.
    (I gave 3 per student)
  • Batteries
    I used CR2032 3V batteries. 1 per student
  • Coppertape
    It also depends on how much you need on the demands of the students. I made a link above, so you can order it straight away from Amazon. If that will not work or is hard to access, you can also use strips of aluminum foil and glue that to the cardboard. That will work too.
  • Markers
  • and a happy mood!

Let's begin!

Step 2: Introduction: Circuits

(10-15 minute introduction)

Before you start you have to teach the children already some concepts about building circuits. In my case the children already had build simple circuits before. But it's always good to recap.

You start the lesson with explaining that today we will be going to build a custom circuit that they will design completely themselves. Recap of what they already know from the last lesson, or introduce the concept of building circuits. For this lesson we will build parallel circuits, so that you can light up multiple LEDs on just one battery.

Use the drawings I provided with this lesson to explain the circuits. Then explain they will get a piece of cardboard where they can draw anything they like. After they are done drawing, they will poke holes with a nail into the cardboard to push the LEDs through. Tell them that LEDs have a long leg and a short leg. That's important because it will indicate which of the legs of the LED is the negative and the positive. If they aren't connected right, your LED will not light up. Make sure that all the legs will point in the same direction. That will make it later on easier when you have to connect all of them.

It also helps if you have already made an example for them.

After the theory, let the children start.

Step 3: Draw

The children go and draw whatever they like with markers on the piece of cardboard they were provided.

Step 4: Build the Circuit!

Once the children are done drawing, they decide where to place the LEDs. That's where they will poke the holes through the cardboard.

When the holes are made, they draw the circuit with a marker on the back of the cardboard. A little piece of paper will be glued on the back, to make the connection for the battery later.

***I had the children come to me to check if they had drawn the circuit right.***

Then we use the adhesive copper tape to tape it over the lines: The circuit is getting shape.

The LEDs are put in the holes and their legs bend over the copper tape. It's really important that all the long legs are on one side (the + side) so they will light up. I had the children put some copper tape over the legs too, so we'll be sure that a connection is made.

Place the battery with the minus side on the copper tape with the sign -. Bend the paper over to the plus side and the circuit is complete: The LEDs will light up!

I added also an photo of work of the students (the last one).The student wanted to have his LEDs constantly on, so he just taped the battery to the back. You can see it's not that super neat, but it works and for today that's all that matters.

Step 5: Make the Stands

Cut two triangles of cardboard and glue them with hot glue to the back. So you can have your piece of artwork standing up straight

Step 6: Final Results

Here's some final results of the children.

I am a proud teacher! I hope you all had as much fun as I had!

Step 7: Next Generation Science Standards

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are K–12 science content standards. Standards set the expectations for what students should know and be able to do. The NGSS were developed by states to improve science education for all students.

This lesson includes the following Standards:
4-PS3-4 Energy

(including 4-PS3-1, 4-PS3-2, 4-PS3-3 and 4-PS3-4)

3-5-ETS1-1 Engineering Design

3-5-ETS1-3 Engineering Design

Epilog Challenge 9

Participated in the
Epilog Challenge 9