Introduction: Steady Hands Game

About: More than 14 pulsating exhibits make the Children's Museum of Houston one of the top rated in the country. Packed with daily activities and invigorating performances, it’s the place where minds come out to pl…

It takes nerves of steel to get down the copper! Also a fun eye-hand coordination game, exploration into conductivity, introduction to electric circuits, and intro to LEDs

This is one of the projects for our Instructables: Made In Your Mind (IMIYM) exhibition at the Children’s Museum of Houston . Produced in partnership with Instructables, IMIYM is an exhibit where families work together to build different fun, toy-like projects that help construct knowledge and skills related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics while instilling a “do-it-yourself” attitude in kids so they feel empowered to explore, tinker, and try to make things themselves. To learn more, check out the article here.

For this project, we were inspired by the Wire Loop Game Instructable created by steven.folkins, but there may be others on Instructables that are also similar. Often, the materials and process for building our projects are designed for use with a large number of visitors (we see over 800,000 annually) and the need to ensure safety in a mostly non-facilitated environment. So, yes, many of these projects have room for improvement in both materials and methodology, which is PRECISELY what we want to encourage the kids to do. So please do share your ideas for improvement and modifications!

Step 1: What You Need

  • 1 – 10mm LED, 40-50° intensity angle (Available in most electronics hobby shops. We get ours in bulk from Leading LEDs)
  • 1 - CR2032 3V Coin Battery (Available at many places, but we get ours in bulk from Batteries and Butter)
  • 8 inches – Aluminum tape (Available at most hardware stores)
  • 36 inches – 14 Gauge bare copper wire (Available at most hardware stores and electronic hobby shops)
  • 24 inches – 18 Gauge insulated stranded wire (Available at most hardware stores and electronic hobby shops)
  • 1 - 8½” x 11” Chipboard (cereal box front or back will work nicely, but we get ours in bulk from U-Line)
  • 1 – Normal craft stick – available at most craft stores, but we get ours from
  • Scissors
  • Masking Tape
  • Ruler
  • Needle Nose Pliers (optional, but helpful)

We are selective in our materials for cost, ease of use, and safety due to our high traffic (800,000 visitors annually). So, for our purposes, this design worked best. But you may have other ideas - please share!

Step 2: The Video

We offer optional video segments of each step for this project in the actual exhibit. Here is a compilation of all the steps.

Step 3: Making the Base

Cut two, 2-inch pieces of aluminum tape. Peel off the back of the two pieces of aluminum tape and stick them onto diagonally opposite corners of the chipboard.

Step 4: Adding the Track Part 1

Using your fingers or the pliers, make a roughly 1½ inch loop on both ends of the bare copper wire. Cut another 2-inch piece of aluminum tape. Peel off the backing and use the aluminum tape to stick one of the loops onto one of the other pieces of aluminum tape.

Step 5: Adding the Track Part 2

Using the wire cutting area of the needle nose pliers, carefully strip ½ to 1 inch of the insulation from each end of the insulated wire. (If new to this sort of thing, “stripping” means to cut only through then pull off the rubber leaving bare wire)

Wrap the copper from one stripped end of the insulated wire around the exposed loop of the bare copper wire. Peel off the backing from the final 2 inches of aluminum tape and use it to stick the other loop on the bare copper wire to the opposite corner of the chipboard.

Step 6: Building the Tool

Use the pliers to make a loop on the exposed copper from the other end of the insulated wire. Put the loop on one end of the craft stick running the wire along the craft stick. Use a piece of masking tape in the middle to hold it in place.

Look at the LED – there is a longer and a shorter wire. Bend the SHORTER wire off to the side, and use the pliers to make a loop on it. Place the “+” side of the coin battery onto the wire loop attached to the craft stick. Place the loop from the LED on the battery and use masking tape to hold it all together.

Step 7: Attaching the Tool

Bend the other wire of the LED away from the craft stick. Make sure none of it is touching the battery. Use the pliers to wrap the LED wire around the bare copper wire to create a loop.

Step 8: To Use...

To use: run the loop along the copper wire. The goal is to NOT touch the wire. If you touch the wire, the light will turn on. Try bending the bare copper wire into different shapes to make the game harder.

Create a game with a friend where you take turns bending a course out of the wire and seeing how many times the other one sets off the light going through the course.

The Steady Hands Game is basically an electric circuit with a switch. In order for a circuit to work, electricity has to flow through it. Whenever the loop on the LED touches the bare copper wire, electricity can flow from the battery, through the LED, through the wire, and back to the battery, which turns on the circuit.

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