Welcome to PLIX Paper Circuits! Learn the basics of circuits while creating beautiful, interactive works of art!
🥰 Ages 8+ 🕐 1–1.5 Hours 👩👧👦 up to 10 Participants 🍎 1–2 Facilitators ⚡️ Low-tech Electronic
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.
Workshop Prompts & Gallery
Prompts from PLIX
PLIX Community Remixes
PLIX Community Book Connections
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).
Remixable Zine ↓
Simple Example ↓
Troubleshooting Tips ↓
Playtest and Plan
Remember: There’s no one right way to prepare for a workshop. Use these steps as a loose guideline for planning to run this activity.
- Choose one of our prompts, or come up with a prompt that suits your library community. Our activity guides are for getting you started—feel free to change or create new design elements to suit your local community! All PLIX activity guides are designed for a minimum of 1–2 facilitators
- Gather materials and print out the zine.
- Make an example project. Try it out with friends and colleagues.
Thoughtfully incomplete, good examples feature a variety of approaches and starting points. Use them to inspire learners to make something uniquely their own. Check out this guide for step-by-step instructions for making examples for your Paper Circuits workshop →How-To: Make Examples for Paper Circuits⚡
- Try the activity with your patrons. Set a date and time. Easily promote your workshop with our editable Paper Circuits flyer template →
- Populate your workshop space with diverse example projects. Create and play together!
- Reflect on what you’ve done and consider doing a remix!
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!
With this activity, it’s tempting to dive deeper into electronics: how circuits work, diodes, etc. Avoid getting into the weeds or using technical jargon. Curious participants who want to learn more can look at books from your collection (such as Charles Platt's Make: Electronics) or the abundant online resources like Adafruit, SparkFun, Make:, and Instructables.
Before you take a look, ask participants to get a fresh pair of eyes on a creation. That's sometimes all one needs to discover a small error that kept an LED from lighting up. This practice encourages peer learning.
Recognize the value of the concept that the participant had in mind, and what difficulties they encountered, whether or not they resolved the issues. Process is critical in industry too. Remind your participants of how often commercially made electronics fail, and how electronics often go through long design cycles before manufacture, and that a lot of engineering is debugging.
Doing this throughout the making process will allow you to identify the resilience and problem-solving the participants demonstrate. Clarifying questions to ask include:
- Did you try switching out components?
- Are there any points where the circuit is overlapping where it shouldn’t? Or where the circuit is broken but it should be continuous?
- Use the troubleshooting guide to help work through other possible circuit issues.
While in this project we should think of electronic components as just another craft material, unlike with pompoms or pipe cleaners, paper circuits may fail at the end of the workshop for unknown reasons, even after a lot of debugging. Try to make sure your participants feel good about their effort: there are new rules to what works and what doesn’t, and that itself takes some time to get used to.
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 this activity on Twitter or Instagram and tag us @heyplix
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.