Working Circuit Symbols




Introduction: Working Circuit Symbols

Ever struggled to explain the order that components should go in? Need a subtle reminder, for students to follow? Or maybe want to mess around, but don't have a breadboard to play with? These are the thing for you!

You need:
  • Cardboard (I've used recycled packaging)
  • Glue/tape
  • Aluminium kitchen foil
  • Components
  • Thick marker pen
  • Wire
  • Soldering iron
  • Solder


Step 1: Prepare the Components

The first thing you'll need to do is attach wires to your components. These need to extend the full length of the card piece, plus about 5cm on each side.

Step 2: Assembly - 1

Tape your newly extended components to the middle of the piece of card - I centered the component, and then stretched the wire across to the end.

Strip the end of the wire from where it reaches the edge of the card. This should leave you with about 5cm of exposed wire. Fold the exposed wire over the end of the card, and tape down the end.

Fold the card in half, to sandwich the component and wires in between, and glue/tape shut.

Step 3: Assembly - 2

Cut your aluminium foil into strips that are the same width as your newly folded cardboard. These are going to become the connectors/end caps of your components. Fold the aluminium strip in half, and half again, and then glue either side of your cardboard, so that it folds over the end, and goes over the top of the wire.

Draw the circuit symbol for whatever component on top, making sure to mark the positive and negative, if the piece you're looking at has polarity. I've popped a PDF file with a whole load of different symbols that we use in my school onto this file - if you have any difficulties with it, let me know. You could either print these in a large size and stick them directly onto your symbols, or you could use them to copy up from - up to you.

Step 4:

Use and enjoy! I have various sets of these, relating to projects that I run in school, and then some smaller (10cm x 4cm) sets that I encourage the lower ability students to use. These ones have symbols on one side and photographs on the other side.

The picture shows them blue-tacked to my whiteboard and working :)



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    15 Discussions

    The description says you can even paint over other dry layers for wire crossings.. I think I will order some as well!

    Get a cheap snap kit from Harbor Freight. Put the male snap on the bottom side and female snap on the top side. Both snaps on each end so you are not limited to configuration. You can also stack them. For more advanced components, you can have a snap for each lead, just leave enough room between the snaps for the connections. Make a few plain conductor pieces too so you can lay them out in a easy to see schematic style layout. You could do just about any circuit imaginable. transistors, capacitors, resistors, 555 timers, relays, switches... you are only limited by your imagination.

    Another idea is to use plastic instead of cardboard. You really only need one side. Packing tape over the circuit on the back would be sufficient to protect it. It will be more durable. I borrowed a screen shot of a good source of cheap plastic material from another instructable. 


    This is a great "poor man's" version of Snap Circuits... I got the basic version for my son but was quickly disappointed by the lack of variation in their kit... have to buy the "upgrades" with more parts to do more stuff. This looks like you could very easily add as many different components as you'd like in whatever quantities.

    I think I will look into doing these and see if I can get them all the same size so they are interchangeable Maybe even see if I can get a "common size" shell, to hold the components, made with a 3D printer or laser cutter...

    1 reply

    That's part of what inspired this - I have a small kit that I was using with classes, but the pieces aren't big enough and there isn't enough variety, hence the giant cardboard ones.

    I'd definitely be interested to see anything interchangeable!

    I really like this idea as a way to teach my son about circuits. If I were to make a set of these, what would be the ideal pieces to have in a set? Thanks!

    3 replies

    It depends on whether there's an aim to what you're teaching him. I teach secondary aged students (11-18), and start with the youngest ones learning about resistors, using an LED, a Resistor, a Switch, and a Power Unit. I use that unit to talk about voltage, and polarity. We then move onto a nightlight, using an LDR and a transistor, which is primarily about using a transistor as a switch, and have another unit which is more about mechanisms than electronics, that uses a simple circuit to drive a motor.

    As a starting point, I'd find a selection of resistors, LEDs, switches, and buzzers and jump straight in - you'll soon decide if you need extra pieces of want to do something specific

    That makes sense--I shall meditate on that. I was thinking designing projects based on pieces available versus determining pieces needed for a given project :). I have one other question: where does the battery fit in? I see it in one of the photos but I'm fuzzy as to where it goes. Do you make another "circuit (card)board" or is it added into one of the existing ones of another component? Thanks again!

    The battery I've used in this one is inside the card strip for it - all I did was use electrical tape to attach wires to the pos and neg side of a coin cell battery and then treated it in exactly the same way as the other pieces. You could also use a battery snap and cage to create a changeable voltage, enabling you to use the same card piece for different values

    I'm a physics teacher and this looks pretty cool. I was wondering if aluminum tape would work instead of aluminum foil? Thanks for the awesome idea!

    1 reply

    The best option would be copper tape, but I see no reason why the aluminium tape wouldn't work, as long as it isn't coated at all?

    Nice! Add a magnet or two to the back and the whiteboard becomes a teachable breadboard.

    1 reply

    If you have a magnetic white board, definitely! I've used blue tack on the back of these as I don't, sadly...