Tinkering with Paper Circuits

paper circuit projects

My Paper Circuit Projects

I spent most of the past week out in Colorado for the Teaching, Learning, and Coaching conference (an amazing professional learning experience!) and in between sessions, I spent as much time as I could tinkering with paper circuits.

The goal of my work was to repurpose materials that I found in a thrift store or my basement to create something new using maker materials (in my case, circuit stickers) for my Adapting Innovative Technologies in Education class.

Of course, being at a hotel in a new city made it pretty hard to run down to the basement or find a thrift store, so I had to get thrifty with the materials I had with me. Luckily, I had some cardboard from the protective pieces that came with my copper tape and I had some paper and markers that I usually carry with me. Knowing that I had this work ahead of me, I had also packed my circuit stickers, some coin cell batteries, copper tape, and a few LEDs. I threw in some aluminum foil for extra conductive material and I even ended up having a few Legos from my work with the Urban Arts Partnership the week before. All of these items became my toolbox for creating a new invention with paper circuits.

As Koehler and Mishra (2008) state, “teaching with technology is is a wicked problem” and “wicked problems require creative solutions” so I set about trying to discover creative ways to understand more about circuit stickers, paper circuits in general, and how my students could use them. As I tinkered, I quickly discovered just how much of a wicked problem circuit stickers can be when trying to make things light up!

I started with some simple Google searches, which led me to explore a variety of resources on the web. I found some great video tutorials on the Chibitronics website, a number of creative project ideas on Instructables, and some amazing work by researcher Jie Qi.

My Paper Circuit Pinterest Board

My Paper Circuit Pinterest Board

As I did my exploring, I took notes in Evernote but found Pinterest to be a better tool to visually curate the websites and digital resources I was finding online. I’m excited to continue building my collection there and maybe upload some projects of my own, as my students and I begin to create things.

I found that the circuit stickers involved a pretty high level of frustration because of their fragility and sensitivity so I engaged in a lot of trial and error as I worked to create different projects. My culminating piece was inspired by this stop sign idea and this Makey Makey project, as well as a need I have seen in my own classes. Students are often so excited about their work or frustrated by some of their materials and a need to receive some assistance to get started, that they end up shouting out all at the same time. I created a prototype of what I am currently calling the “FYI Indicator” that can let a teacher know if a student has a question, a new idea, or needs help. Check out the video below to see my initial explorations and the final prototype I created:

I tried to capture my experience tinkering with paper circuits with both photos and videos. I even tested out the new Boomerang app as a quick way to show one of my LEDs being powered by an aluminum foil button/switch. I compiled all of these pieces in a video so that I could add a layer of narration to weave the pieces together and tell the story of my work. My hope is that being able to see the experimentation I did, including my mistakes, can help others understand how to do embark on their own explorations. What would you create with paper circuits and some circuit stickers?


Koehler, M. & Mishra, P. (2008). Teaching creatively: Teachers as designers of technology, content and pedagogy [Video file]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/39539571


One response to “Tinkering with Paper Circuits

  1. Hey Margaret! I’m about to be exploring circuit stickers with some of my 2nd graders and I made this Symbaloo webmix to go with our explorations. Thought you might like to see it: http://edu.symbaloo.com/mix/simplecircuits

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