Introduction: Make a Led Wall Piece in Class

About: I'm a teacher (physics, grades 7 to 10), Maker and product designer. (Check out full of experiments, projects for Maker Education and kits for Bibberbeests!). Besides that, I write childre…
The instructable Make a Boo wall piece was a "springboard" for this project: an assignment for students to make a "Led wall piece" of their own design.

Since September 2012 I work part-time for Metzelaar Praktijkgilde, a starting up school where craftsmanship is in the center of the educational concept. Students are coached and taught by a team of professional craftsman and educators. After an introduction period of six weeks students work together with professional craftsmen on paid jobs. While on the job, students find out what they're good at and what they need to learn.

For the six weeks introduction period, the assignment of designing and making of a "Led wall piece" works great because a lot of aspects of different crafts and skills are introduced on a novice level. In the same time, making a logo of your own design (or your  favorite soccer team :-)) proves to be very rewarding and stimulating for the students.

For the instruction, I haven't used a powerpoint, worksheet or drawings. I used the real thing, a hands-on example in the form of my self made Boo wall piece. I find this much more efficient way of instruction than the text or picture based instruction.

Since the students made their own designs for the wall piece, a few extra's came along that I had not foreseen, but was very happy to include, such as the use of perspex, typography, using different colored led's, chiseling, etc.

We started with a very heterogeneous group of 11 students, aged from 17 to 31 with different levels of previous education.

General goals for this project are:
  • First and foremost: Make students enthusiastic about Making and providing a successful start with their just-started education.
  • Introducing different skills and materials to the students.
  • Investigating the students' skills in various disciplines.
  • Investigating the students' interests in different disciplines of craft.

On crafts:
  • Introduction to the crafts woodworking, painting, eletronics, calligraphy

Introduction and training of skills:
  • Introduction to the use of some tools: jigsaw, sander, chisel, router, soldering iron

On design:
  • Sketching
  • Dimensioning and technical drawing
  • Transferring design on wood
  • Use of colors
  • Typography

On electronics
  • Concepts of electrical circuit, current and voltage
  • Concepts of electrical resistance, use of resistors to limit a current
** Stay tuned to this instructable. Eight more wall pieces are still on their way to completion. I'll post more pictures and add some explanation in the upcoming weeks **

Step 1: Tools, Materials and Costs

Costs per wall piece are somewhere between US$10 and $20 / €8 and €16.

  • Pencil and paper at least 60x60 cm
  • Hand saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Ruler
  • Router (optional)
  • Sanding paper
  • Soldering iron
  • Pliers
  • Multimeter
  • Lab power supply

Materials for one wall piece:
  • MDF, two sheets of 60x60 cm
  • Paint: acrylic and primer
  • Perspex sheet 4-8mm thick (optional, size depending on the design)
  • 10-15 leds. We used low-current 5mm red and green leds.
  • 2 meters of 3M copper tape
  • Brass rod, 6mm diam. (optional)
  • White paint marker (used for calligraphy)

Step 2: Design a Wall Piece

Only a few pictures of the design that were made :-s

There were a couple of challenges for the students in designing a template for their wall piece:
  • Sketching and drawing. Few students were comfortable with it, art teachers helped them visualizing what they had in mind.
  • Some students chose to make a wall piece of an existing logo (soccer teams or rock groups!). A few others wanted to make something personal (a mask, a carp)
  • Another challenge was transferring a (sometimes small) sketch to a full size detailed template. The final templates were made using self made grids and graph paper.
In this phase, ideas for using perspex came up, which we had lying around. Not coincidentally, we stored it in the classroom where students were working on their design :-)

Step 3: Woodworking

After the design is transferred on a sheet of MDF, the shape is cut out with a jigsaw.

For most students this was a fairly straight forward task. One student already had some experience with a router and decided to round the inner and outer edges (the "WS" design in the pictures).

Step 4: Painting

Painting takes patience :-)

While working on the paint, students experimented with different colored leds and how the light reflects on different colored surfaces.

Step 5: Introduction to Electronics and Soldering

To make sure the students had some basic skills in soldering and a notion of electric circuits, I started with making an easy-but-funny circuit. The circuit is mounted on a pie of plywood. Brass pushpins are used to solder the components on. The lay-out is in the attached pdf document.

Time needed to build the circuit: 20-30 minutes.

After the circuit is completed, the concept of an electric circuit can be demonstrated with a "human electrical circuit". See the video of "Blinky the Led pet" for a demonstration.

The use of a led can also be explained with this circuit. Chances are that at least one of the students mounts the led in the wrong direction, which is my cue explaining the working of led's :-). The same goes for the transistor, of course...

Step 6: Mounting Electronics

Mounting the electronics contains a few steps. The pictures cover them all:
  • Tracing the circuit using 3M copper tape
  • Choosing a "plus-rail" and soldering the leds accordingly.
  • Testing the leds on a lab power supply and determining the total current through the circuit.
    (In one particular case, two different colors were wanted, which made the circuit a bit more complex: two circuits with different currents, from one power brick :-))
  • Determining the voltage of a discarded power brick and finding out the needed extra resistors to get the right current
  • Mounting the power brick and a finding a way to lock up the incoming cord

Step 7: Finishing Touch

One of the students proved to be a good artist and had some experience in drawing tribals and calligraphy. He volunteered to add hand drawn calligraphy to some of the wall pieces, using a white paint marker. The pictures will show you the result.

Note: Doing calligraphy with a paint marker might not be the "correct" way to do it, we had to improvise to make it happen. Calligraphy lessons are being developed right now :-)

Hands-on Learning Contest

Grand Prize in the
Hands-on Learning Contest

Make It Glow

Participated in the
Make It Glow