Tag Archives: #makered

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


Adventures in 3D Printing

The past two weeks have been filled with exciting and challenging adventures in 3D Printing as I tried to achieve my first Networked Learning Project goal: make a sign.

I started by watching some beginner Tinkercad videos and then searching YouTube for any videos about making 3D printed signs in Tinkercad. I couldn’t find anything that was an exact match but I did find videos about making keychains and nametags. After watching them, I opened up Tinkercad and started working on my own design. It was great to be able to go back and rewatch parts of a video in one tab and jump back to my work in Tinkercad in another tab. I started by grouping a cylinder and a square together and then inserting a “round roof” shape as a hole in the cylinder. This created a little handle which would make it easy to hang the sign. Next, I added another thin square as a background for my words and finally, I inserted letters for the sign text.

My Tinkercad design and then final product!

I also found a really helpful video with Tinkercad keyboard shortcuts that I’ve watched a few times already. It made it much easier to navigate and make edits on the site. I started to compile all of the videos I watched and learned from in a Tinkercad YouTube Playlist so it would be easy to go back and watch them again and find (and share!) them for future reference.

I really wanted to see if I could use multiple colors of plastic in my sign but I had never done that in one print. I could not find an easy way (I hope to follow-up about this in a help forum) to tell when the print was hitting different layers so I ended up just watching it closely and pausing the print when I thought it was finished with one part (e.g., the foundation) and then changing the filament and restarting the print. This worked beautifully the first time but the second time I tried it I ran into a known issue with the Makerbot Replicator 5th Gen – the extruder (where the plastic is heated and comes out) gets clogged and there’s no way to open the extruder and clear it. The likelihood of this seems to increase when you change filaments.

Changing the Extruder

Changing the Extruder

I was able to pause the print and remove the filament when the extruder first became clogged and actually swap in a new extruder I had on hand. Unfortunately, that extruder also had problem, it was leaking filament! Even though I had not restarted the print, purple filament was slowly streaming out. Now, I was in a bind because I did not have another extruder to swap in. I decided to reach out to my local network (the other Tech Coordinators at my school) and ask if they had an extra extruder I could borrow. We’re fortunate enough to have a Makerbot in our Lower School, Middle School, and Upper School so there was a chance my project would be saved! Otherwise it could be weeks before I could finish the print. Thankfully, one of them did have a new extruder and I was able to put it in and successfully finish the print!

YouTube has been a very useful resource so far in this project. I am a visual learner and it’s helpful to be able to watch something, hear it explained, then go back and watch it again if I want, pausing to look closer at exactly how something is working. I’m excited to work on my next two goals, making something practical with the 3D printer and printing something with moving parts.