The PLIX Paper Circuits activity encourages patrons to bring their own passions and ideas into their creations, while learning some basics of electrical circuits along the way! This activity is a PLIX team favorite, and it's our recommended starting point for new facilitators who want to begin offering creative STEAM programming in their libraries. It’s easy to set up and the materials are cheap, which lets you run workshops repeatedly (important for practicing facilitation techniques!).

The materials kit for this activity contains the basic materials needed for running a 10-person workshop (e.g. copper tape, LEDs, batteries, colorful paper, binder clips), a troubleshooting guide, example projects, copies of our paper circuits zine for patrons, workshop prompt ideas, and a copy of our PLIX Facilitation Techniques guide. You can get the detailed materials list and downloadable resources on our PLIX Activity Repository!

The PLIX Paper Circuits activity 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!

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!

Workshop Prompt Inspiration

  • 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 make them weird 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)

Try it!

On our PLIX Activity Repository, you'll find the full list of materials for the Paper Circuits activity, so you can make your own! All of our PLIX activities include a list of supplies for getting started, example project ideas, and facilitation tips for librarians.

We think it’s important to share what we’re making so anyone can get started with creative STEAM learning. All of our PLIX learning materials are openly licensed (CC-BY-SA 4.0) and free to download.

Share your experience running programs with this activity on the PLIX Discussion Forum or on social media using #PLIXPaperCircuits