If you are looking to add some add some “spark” to your classroom maker space then introducing electronics to your students might be a “bright” idea. (Did you see what I did there?)
Crafting with electronics is making its way into the hands of just about anyone who might be interested. Whereas at one point this type of activity may have been reserved for electronic engineers, now students can explore the world of electronics and understand conductive properties at even a kindergarten age level.
One of the most accesible products on the market right now for electronic crafting is Chibitronics. Creator Jie Le, a Ph. D, student at MIT, and her partner wanted to design a research project that combined both paper and electronics in a way that allowed users to be creative. Chibitronics is now an extremely popular tool for teachers and their students to combine arts and crafts with the “magic” of electricity. Using circuit stickers, a flexible LED with an conductive adhesive on the back, students and teachers are able to connect unique circuits. The circuits are most often made with conductive copper wire, and completed with the circuit stickers. The Chibitronics website offers numerous tutorials and education on how the circuits work. One of the most common activities is making light up cards.
Electronic crafting has also entered the world of textiles. Creator of the LillyPad arduino Leah Buechley (2012) wanted to blend her love of technology and electronic engineering with her passion for art. Her co-authored book Sew Electric introduces anyone who wants to learn to the art of adding electricity to fabric. She bridges the gap between the world of engineering to the world of art and expression.
As a lover of art, especially crafting with textiles I was immediately drawn to this bridge between the world of technology and textiles. I think this is an awesome way for students to explore multiple passions and perhaps spark deeper creativity and thinking about how the world works. Providing a chance in your maker space for children to explore the invisible world of electricity makes this world visible. Not only that it is exciting and provides immediate results. Once students have developed an understanding of how the circuits work I could see taking away the tutorials and allowing them to experiment on their own. Problem solving is sure to present itself as students work out the kinks. I will definitely add an electronic maker space to my classroom.
This website I found from a Pinterest search A Modified version of Paper Circuits activity For Classroom was particularly helpful as I began looking into what working with electronics in my maker space might look like. While the site does not use Chibielectronis all of the basic elements of paper circuitry are there. Since this is a whole new thing even for me I appreciated the use of user friendly language and the ideas for creating visuals everyone can see (extra large cardboard switch visual). Some of the resources were a little outdated and I would try to find copper tape that was conductive on both sides but this was a great way for me to visualize a possible space
Hoopes, H. (January 22, 2014) Chibitronics connects circuits with stickers for entertaining electronic education. Retrieved on: July 20, 2016 from: http://www.gizmag.com/chibitronics-circuit-stickers/30558/
Ryko (August, 2014) A modified version of paper circuits activity for classroom. Retrieved on July 20, 2016 from: http://tinkering.exploratorium.edu/2014/08/01/modified-version-paper-circuits-activity-classroom
TED (2012) Leah Buechley: How to ‘sketch’ with electronics. Available at:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTBp0Z5GPeI (Accessed: 20 July 2016).