Beginner Electronics Project: The TapeTricity Card

Education Technology
Beginner Electronics Project: The TapeTricity Card

The TapeTricity Card, from MAKE pal Chris Connors, is a great first electronics project for kids. It’s quick, cheap, easy, and fun to make. Not only does it teach how to make a simple circuit, but it engages the maker’s creativity: they design and draw the card, and then they decide how many and which color LEDs to include.

The build is simple:

  • Draw create a picture in the medium of your choice: crayon, pen, pencil, or even collage.
  • Figure out where you want your LED, and punch small side-by-side holes for the legs in that spot.
  • On the back side, attach parallel strips of aluminum tape on either side of the holes.
  • Push the LED legs through the holes, and then bend the legs in opposite directions: negative (short leg) on one side, positive (long leg) on the other.
  • Tape the negative on one strip of aluminum and the positive on the other strip.
  • Tape a coin cell battery on the end of the negative aluminum tape side, negative side down.
  • Tape some aluminum from the positive aluminum strip to the positive side of the coin cell battery.
  • That’s it — when your LEDs light up, you’ve created a working circuit for about 25 cents worth of parts!
YouTube player

Chris brought this project to Maker Faire Bay Area this year, and it was a a big hit. Above are some of the fun TapeTricity cards that Fairegoers made.

opener tapetricity

If you make a TapeTricity Card of your own, please take photos and share them in the MAKE Flickr Pool!

16 thoughts on “Beginner Electronics Project: The TapeTricity Card

  1. Marya says:

    Any suggestions for how to make it turn on & off so the battery doesn’t die quickly? I’d love to try and talk my sons teacher into letting the kids make this for a project in class, but if they are always on (and the battery dies before the kids bring them home) it kind of defeats the purpose… I watched the video but didn’t see anything about a switch.

    1. albertsq says:

      There is a switch made out of a flap of card shown in the video; it has a symbol for a switch drawn on it. Alternatively, just leave a gap in the aluminium tape with a matching piece across the fold of the card, so that the card needs to be pinched to close the circuit and light up the LEDs.

  2. Chris Connors says:

    LEDs don’t draw a huge amount of current, so the battery tends to last a while. If you want to be sure it isn’t connected, just untape the battery, or put an insulator between it and the circuit.

    To make a switch, you need something that will break the circuit. This can be done with a tape and paper switch pretty easily. As noted above, there’s an example in the video. If you go to the original post (linked to in Laura’s post), there’s a link to the Flickr photo set. In there, you can see just about all of the things people made. One of the more clever switches was made from a clothes pin:

  3. Karl Bielefeldt says:

    Seems you’d want a resistor in there too.

  4. gdkonstantine says:

    Very clever!

  5. Matt Knannlein says:

    Great project: fun and easy to grasp with a nice reward for the amount of time. User-friendly aluminum tape for the circuits is a brilliant idea: after all, the average 4- to 10-year old child uses more nine times more tape per annum than any other demographic. But 25 cents worth of parts? I’m thinking whoever picked that number hasn’t gone shopping since 1951.

  6. Chris Connors says:

    As for the resistor, I haven’t found that this circuit needs one. 3 volts is fine for an LED.

    In regards to pricing, here is what I’ve found, which led me to price the project at $.25:
    * The day before Maker Faire in San Mateo, I bought a roll of aluminum tape for $7 at a big box hardware store. At 150 feet, it seems that the stuff is pretty cheap. Each card uses about 6 inches of tape.
    * During Maker Faire, I started to run low on the coin cell batteries, so I went on an excursion to the dollar store across the street from the venue. They had blister packs of coin cells, 5 batteries for a dollar. 20 cents per battery is a pretty good price.
    * The craft supplies were cheap. At the same dollar store, I bought some packs of pens and rolls of adhesive tape. A friend gave me some scraps of paper from their WaterColorBot exhibit. These materials are all reusable, and I’ve since used the pens and tape on other projects.
    * LEDs are far more inexpensive than they were a few years ago. They are also much more commonly found in the far reaches of many makers’ supply area. I’ve personally got a bunch of bags of random LEDs, which formed the bulk of what I started with. If I were to buy new LEDs, I would search on Ebay for bulk LEDs, go to Radio Shack, look at Digikey or Jameco to see what is in stock with each of these resources. If your area has an electronics flea market, you should be able to find a wide variety for short money. LEDs are so common nowadays that you can get them for about a penny each without too much trouble.

  7. techkim says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this project. Just did with Tech-Girls at CoderDojo & it was a big success ( BTW, I found batteries & LEDs pretty cheap on amazon from GadgetMe. Also discovered 3V battery is key. I found 1.5V at our dollar store, but they didn’t work out.

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