Welcome to PLIX Paper Circuits! Learn the basics of circuits while creating beautiful, interactive works of art! A friendly introduction to electronics, this activity is a PLIX team favorite. It's our recommended starting point for new facilitators who want to begin offering creative STEAM programming in their libraries.
Activity at a Glance
This activity works well as either a structured workshop or a drop-in activity.
- Age Range: 8+ years old
- Group Size: 10 participants
- Number of Facilitators: 1–2
- Activity Length: 1–1.5 hours for a structured workshop
- Cost: $16–$24 for 10 participants (depending on what you buy in bulk, and where)
- Prep Time: 1-1.5 hours to fold zines, make examples, and set up supplies
Share the love: Tell us how you use this activity guide on the PLIX Forum or via our PLIX Remix report form. Remember, our guide is just a jumping off point — feel free change or create new design elements to suit your local community!
PLIX Tip: For purchasing electronic parts, we use online shops like SparkFun or Adafruit, but there are many other options as well (e.g., local hardware stores; Amazon).
The Paper Circuits zine introduces a definition of a circuit, as well as some in-zine templates for constructing a simple circuit and one with a paper clip switch.
Download one-page PDF here →
Download one-page JPG here →
A note about zines: Our PLIX zines are designed to be supplementary resources for patrons and librarians to refer to during workshops. They're a quick and easy way for people to learn some fundamentals. You can print them on 8.5x11" paper, and they're easy to assemble. Here’s a resource that shows you step-by-step how to cut and fold them after printing!
Troubleshooting Tips Handout
The Troubleshooting Tips for Paper Circuits handout contains helpful tips for solving some of the most common issues that arise when running this activity. As a facilitator, you can point your participants to this handout if they get stuck or are having trouble getting their circuit to light up as expected.
Before the workshop, you'll want to print this document and cut it in half (one sheet of 8.5x11" paper will give you two handout sheets). You can make this resource available to your participants simply by scattering them around in the middle of your work table with the rest of your materials.
Download here →
The Paper Circuits activity supplies can be used with a wide variety of workshop prompts. Below you'll find a few that we love 💕— and we encourage you to come up with your own!
Dazzling Greeting Cards — Make greeting cards for any occasion a little more special by decorating them with LEDs
Vintage Photo Remix — Print out images from the internet, and bring them to life with LEDs! (Examples: A cat with light-up LED eyes; a flower with LED petals)
Lit Wearables — Enhance your clothes, jewelry, or other wearables with LEDs and copper tape (Examples: Decorate your shoes with LEDs; make a light-up bracelet)
3D Sculptures — Explore paper folding and creating in three dimensions by making light-up paper sculptures (Examples: Build a light box sculpture; make shadow-box art)
Making Example Projects
When preparing to facilitate a creative learning activity, we always recommend populating your space with diverse example projects. A good example project is thoughtfully designed to inspire your patrons, spark their curiosity, and be easy enough to understand to support them in getting started with the activity.
Check out the guide below for step-by-step instructions for making examples for your Paper Circuits workshop →
Learn more about the art of the example in our PLIX Guide to Making Activity Examples.
This activity is designed to invite learners of all backgrounds into tinkering with circuits and electronics. The materials used in this activity are intentionally low-cost and friendly to encourage participants to try new things, mess around, make mistakes, and experiment. When facilitating this activity, we encourage you to support this tinkering mindset!
Facilitation Techniques to try with Paper Circuits →
Be sure to also check out our PLIX Facilitation Techniques Guide for additional techniques from the PLIX team to help you cultivate your own creative learning facilitation practice.
Paper Circuits in Action
Check out these Paper Circuits shares and remixes from PLIX community members, and add your own on the PLIX Discussion Forum!
Wristband Take-and-Make Kits by Dave Fink (Michigan City Public Library)
Vintage Photo Card Take-and-Make by Tracy (Hennepin County Public Library)
Paper Lanterns by Angelica (Johnson County Black & Veatch Makerspace)
What We ❤️ About This Activity
- Low floor, high ceiling, wide walls. Making a basic paper circuit is very simple (low floor), yet the materials support increased complexity (high ceiling) and allow for a broad range of creative and aesthetic expression (wide walls).
- Offers a playful approach to learning about circuits. This activity is designed to invite learners of all backgrounds into tinkering with circuits and electronics.
- Inexpensive, familiar materials support tinkering. The materials used in this activity are intentionally low-cost and friendly to encourage participants to try new things, mess around, make mistakes, and experiment.
- Encourages collaborative troubleshooting. Common issues are easily investigated and resolved by a group of participants making paper circuits along-side one another – a great way to learn!
About PLIX Paper Circuits
The PLIX Paper Circuits kit was inspired by Jie Qi’s work from the High-Low Tech group at the MIT Media Lab. You can check out additional paper circuits components and tools designed by Jie on the Chibitronics website!
Other ways to engage with PLIX Paper Circuits →
- Looking for some background music? Check out our PLIX Paper Circuits Playlist 🎶
- Read more about how the PLIX team thinks about designing creative learning activities ✨
- Share your experience running programs with this activity on the PLIX Discussion Forum or on social media using #PLIXPaperCircuits 😎
The Public Library Innovation Exchange (PLIX) is a project of the MIT Media Lab Digital Learning & Collaboration Studio. Except where otherwise noted, all materials on this site are licensed under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license. Accessibility.