Introduction: Simple Electronic Button

About: I'm an arts & technology educator, film editor, and maker.

I wanted to create a simple button that was kid-friendly and would easily illustrate how a button works. This could also be a small scale model of a DDR floor pad.

This button was intended to work with alligator clips connecting it to a device and power (like the LED in the video) or a Makey Makey. A versatile component for any interactive project.

Step 1: Materials

Simple, easy to get materials. Spent less than $10 to get the main materials (cork board, felt, foam, & tin foil). Everything else I had around my home or office.

  • 3mm Cork Board, cut into 3"x3" squares
  • Felt, cut into 3"x3" squares
  • 2mm foam, cut into 3"x3" square and 3/4" border
  • tin foil
  • paper clips ( I used the BIG ones)
  • push pins
  • mod podge
  • paint brush
  • xacto knife
  • wire cutters (to cut ends of push pins)
  • ruler
  • mat board (to cut on)
  • hot glue or super glue (optional)

Step 2: Cut Your Button

Cut the felt, foam and cork board to the same shape and size. I wanted something very simple so I cut them all into 3"x3" squares. Cut the tin-foil into 2"x3" strips.

One button contains:

  • 2x 3"x3" cork squares
  • 2x 2"x3" tin foil strips
  • 1x 3"x3" foam square with 3/4" inside border
  • 1x 3"x3" felt square

The cork is sturdy and the tin-foil will be attached to it via a stapler.

The foam is going to act as the insulating layer between the top and bottom tin foil-covered cork board. We'll need to cut a smaller square in the middle so the top & bottom tin foil strips will touch when pressed. I kept a 3/4" border.

The felt is mainly decorative. It could easily be fabric or a photo. I wanted to be able to hide the staples while also being able to differentiate between multiple buttons.

Step 3: Prepare the Button

Place tin-foil strip in the center of cork board.

Using a stapler, staple the edges of the tin foil to the cork board.

Paper clip one cork board so that the paper clip is near an edge. Paper clip the other cork board so that the paper clip is in the center. Both paper clips should be touching the tin foil.

Step 4: Attach Felt

If you're planning on making more buttons, you may want to add a top "cover" (like felt, paper, etc) to help you differentiate them. It's also a great way to hide the staples.

I used mod podge to adhere the cork and felt together. I pressed the cork and felt together under a book for a bit. Hot glue or super glue will probably work too.

Step 5: Assemble Your Button & Enjoy!

Now that all the pieces have been prepared, it's time to make your button. Kinda like making a sandwich, you're going to stack your button as follows (from bottom to top):

  1. cork with tin foil facing up, paper clip near edge
  2. foam
  3. cork with tin foil facing down, paper clip in center, felt attached

Using the push pins, carefully pin each corner of your button "sandwich" together. Maker sure the push pins don't touch the tin foil at all. Because the push pins are metal, they could complete the circuit if they touch the tin foil on both sides, defeating the purpose of our button :(

I placed the paper clips perpendicular to each other because I thought it would be easier to attach alligator clips that way and possibly avoid them from touching.