Paper Circuits

In our maker workshops, we work hard to provide experiences where people develop additional comfort with concepts in electricity. Our squishy circuits project draws on the work of Dr. AnnMarie Thomas to help familiarize participants with basic electrical principles in ways that are safe and that facilitate experimentation.

Our Paper Circuits project picks up on the same theme. We use equipment such as LEDs, 3V coin batteries, and aluminum tape to make simple circuits. I recommend using a large recipe card to start out with something like this:









Note that folding the corner over completes the circuit and lights the LED. Here are some important things to remember:

  • The positive terminal of the LED needs to be oriented toward the positive terminal of the coin battery.
  • The aluminum tape functions as a wire. You should cut a long, thin, strip of tape and gradually bend it into the proper shape as you peel off the backing. If you try to lay one strip of tape on top of the other, the adhesive will provide too much resistance and your circuit won’t work.
  • You can use regular clear tape to hold your LED into place.

Once you make a basic circuit, I encourage you to experiment with a number of designs. Consider making more complicated circuits, or greeting cards. Some people use the aluminum tape to outline a picture or a design before including LEDs, as shown here. Jie Qi, a PhD student at the MIT Media Lab, provides some useful tutorials here.