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How-To: Make Examples for Paper Circuits⚡

Step-by-step instructions for making your own Paper Circuits examples, which have been thoughtfully designed to inspire your participants to start creating!

How to use these examples

When preparing to facilitate a creative learning activity, it is important to think carefully about how you're setting up the learning environment. One very important component of this set-up is populating your space with a variety of example projects.

During your workshop, make these examples available to your participants simply by scattering them around in the middle of your work table with the rest of your materials. This allows participants to use the examples as a reference if they’re looking for inspiration, have a question, or choose to examine them.

As a facilitator, it is important to avoid walking your participants through every step that went into making an example or having every participant make one of the examples. Simply introduce the workshop prompt or theme, and let people dive right in!

And remember, as a facilitator, you don’t have to have all the answers. Good examples can help with troubleshooting and questions from your participants, so don’t be afraid to refer someone to an example (or a peer’s project) if they’re stuck!

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Learn more about the art of the example in our PLIX Guide to Making Activity Examples.

1. A Basic Circuit

What we like about this example: This example is useful as a reference for how paper circuits work. We like to write down useful information onto the example itself (e.g. how to place the LEDs). We recommend making at least 4 of these, so many people can reference them during your workshops. While these examples are a good starting point for constructing basic circuits, make sure to also include some themed activity-related examples to support creative inspiration for your participants (see below).

Materials needed: You can make this example with paper, copper tape, an LED light, a binder clip, a 3V battery, and something to write with.

Instructions →

Make sure to include the labels and other helpful text when making these examples.
Make sure to include the labels and other helpful text when making these examples.
We recommend making at least 4 of these for a workshop with 10 participants.
We recommend making at least 4 of these for a workshop with 10 participants.

2. Vintage Photo Remix

What we like about this example: This example is helpful for participants who feel uncomfortable making something from scratch. Remixing existing images can be a good jumping-off point to more free-form prompts.

Materials needed: You can make this example with any image you like, paper, copper tape, an LED light, a binder clip, glue, a 3V battery, and scissors (or an x-acto knife).

You can use any vintage images you like for this example. We found this image from the
You can use any vintage images you like for this example. We found this image from the NYPL Digital Collections.

Instructions →

Cut out the image you selected.
Cut out the image you selected.
Choose some craft paper as the back for your image to keep it sturdy.
Choose some craft paper as the back for your image to keep it sturdy.

Glue the image to the craft paper.
Glue the image to the craft paper.
Cut out a hole for the LED to go through.
Cut out a hole for the LED to go through.

Turn the card over. Insert the LED through the hole. Note which is the longer
Turn the card over. Insert the LED through the hole. Note which is the longer (+) leg, and which is the shorter (–) leg. As flatten out the LED legs, mark these (+) and (–) for reference.

Admire your work from the front!
Admire your work from the front!

Draw where you’ll put the battery. Use an actual battery to trace, so you'll how big you’ll need the fold to be.
Draw where you’ll put the battery. Use an actual battery to trace, so you'll how big you’ll need the fold to be.

Then draw out how the circuit should look. This will be helpful when laying out the copper tape.
Then draw out how the circuit should look. This will be helpful when laying out the copper tape.
Start laying down the circuit with the copper tape.
Start laying down the circuit with the copper tape.

Your circuit will look like this before adding a battery.
Your circuit will look like this before adding a battery.

Finally, add a battery and binder clip to test if it works. If it doesn’t, check the connections between the copper tape and the LED, or make sure the battery is in the correct orientation.
Finally, add a battery and binder clip to test if it works. If it doesn’t, check the connections between the copper tape and the LED, or make sure the battery is in the correct orientation.
Ta-da! 😎 😎 😎
Ta-da! 😎 😎 😎

3. LED Shadow Box Art

You could also make other light-up 3D structures with different materials!
You could also make other light-up 3D structures with different materials!

What we like about this example: This example showcases the possibilities of creating in 3D with paper circuits. It also highlights a different battery layout (a sandwich technique, rather than a corner fold). There are many different ways to build these shadow box projects, and below we will showcase one technique. Feel free to remix or invent your own style!

Materials needed: You can make this example with paper, copper tape, an LED light, a binder clip, a 3V battery, and scissors (or an x-acto knife).

Instructions →

Cut out a long slip of paper and fold it as shown above.
Cut out a long slip of paper and fold it as shown above.

Draw your shadow box design and the circuit. Note that the battery will be sandwiched between the two ends of the paper (which you’ll see below). Cut out your shadow box design with an x-acto knife.
Draw your shadow box design and the circuit. Note that the battery will be sandwiched between the two ends of the paper (which you’ll see below). Cut out your shadow box design with an x-acto knife.

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As you can see here, the copper tape is going to run on both sides of this paper.
As you can see here, the copper tape is going to run on both sides of this paper.

Finish the circuit with the copper tape...
Finish the circuit with the copper tape...

...and add an LED to create the shadow box effect.
...and add an LED to create the shadow box effect.

Fold the paper like a tent, and sandwich the two ends of the circuit with the battery. Hold them all together with a binder clip.
Fold the paper like a tent, and sandwich the two ends of the circuit with the battery. Hold them all together with a binder clip.
If it doesn’t light up, check the connections between the copper tape and the LED, and make sure the battery is in the correct orientation.
If it doesn’t light up, check the connections between the copper tape and the LED, and make sure the battery is in the correct orientation.

4. Other starter examples

You can find other examples on the Chibitronics website chibitronics.com/how-to …or make up your own idea!

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