STEAM Connections: Circuitry

When you want to turn on a light, what do you do? You flip a switch!

When you want to turn on your tv, you press a button, right? What is it about flipping a switch or pressing a button that makes things turn on? Why does that simple action give us what we want? The answer is each time we press a button or flip a switch, we are completing a circuit. Completing a circuit transfers energy from one thing to the next. 

When electrons move, they produce electricity! Electricity is the movement or flow of electrons from one atom to another. In order for electrons to move to create electricity, they need materials that can make that happen. These materials that electricity can flow through are called conductors. Electrons need more than conductors to flow. They need a closed circuit. A closed-circuit is kind of like a circle. That is, there can’t be any open spaces along the circuit or the electrons will stop. When a circuit is complete, or closed, electrons can flow from one end of a battery all the way around, through the conductors (tape or wires), to the other end of a battery. Along its way, it will carry electrons to electrical objects that are connected to it – like the lightbulb – and make it work! It’s like a circle. The energy flows all the way around! In this activity, we are going to create electricity by completing a circuit by making either an LED light-up flower or an LED flashlight. 

Before you begin with your projects, always test your LED lights! It’s easy! Simply slip your coin battery between the diodes (legs) of the LED. If it doesn’t work, turn the battery around.

Supplies – LED Flower:
  • Coffee filter
  • Markers
  • Craft Stick
  • Copper tape
  • Coin battery
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Tape
  • Pipette or spray bottle
  1. Color your coffee filters with markers any way you want
  2. Spray or wet your coffee filters so the color spreads along the hole filter
  3. Wait for it to dry
  4. Take the copper tape and apply a strip to each side.
  5. Take your dry coffee filter paper and grab it in the middle, roll and bunch it to gather it up and form your flower. You should have a small “stalk”. Use tape to hold it together.
  6. Attach the diodes/legs to each side of the craft stick making sure that each diode is attached to the copper tape.
  7. Attach the flower “stalk” around your LED light. Tape into place.
  8. Using the coin battery, make contact with the copper tape on the correct side. The negative side is the bumpy side and the positive side is smooth. You want the negative side to connect with the copper tape side that has the shorter diode. If you aren’t sure which is the shorter side, try one side. If it doesn’t work, try the other.
  9. Once the battery is secured on the correct side with tape, flip up the metal arms of the binder clip in order to apply pressure to turn the flashlight on.
Supplies – LED Flashlight:
  • Craft stick
  • LED light
  • Copper tape
  • Coin battery
  • Binder Clip
  • Tape
  1. Gather the two strips of copper tape approximately 5 ½ inches long.
  2. Attach copper tape the length of the craft stick to one side and add the binder clip to ensure the tape is the right length.
  3. Attach one leg of the diode to the side where the tape has been attached.
  4. Turn the craft stick over and attach the second piece of copper tape to the length of the craft stick. Secure the other leg of the diode on the other side with the new tape. The longer diode is the positive diode and the shorter diode is the negative diode (make note for use later).
  5. Attach, the binder clip to the bottom of the craft stick to ensure the correct length of the tape (you don’t want the binder clip touching the copper tape).
  6. Use tape to secure the LED to the top of the stick.
  7. Using the coin battery, make contact with the copper tape on the correct side. The negative side is the bumpy side and the positive side is smooth (if the side isn’t bumpy check to see if the battery indicates the positive side). You want the negative side to connect with the copper tape side that has the shorter diode.
  8. Once the battery is secured on the correct side with tape, flip up the metal arms of the binder clip in order to apply pressure to turn the flashlight on. 
Review

You used a battery in your circuit. A battery’s purpose is to deliver moving electrons, and those electrons need to move in a continuous circle. The battery provided the power to your LED light and was part of the whole closed circuit! In these projects, we made sure the circuit was complete, or closed. Closed circuits allow electrons to flow through the whole circuit and provide the energy transfer to happen. If there had been a break in the circuit (kind of like a circle) the LED light wouldn’t have lit up! Now you know how circuits provide power to all kinds of things you use everyday AND you made a complete circuit with your projects!

Where else can you find these circuits? Ask your caregivers for examples of them around your house!

Resources to explore:

Use the library catalog to find books on circuitry, batteries and more.

Conductors and Insulators by Jessica Pegis

Electrical Experiments by Rachel Lynette

Energy Fundamental Series for Elementary on Kanopy

Experiments with Electricity by Isabel Thomas

Glowing with Electricity: Science Adventures with Glenda the Origami Firefly

How Batteries Work by Victoria G. Christensen

How Circuits Work by James Roland

Snap Circuits STEAM Kit

TEEN littlebits Deluxe STEAM Kit

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