I Made Circuits with a pencil

Last weekend I had a really interesting Saturday morning.  A few days ago i found out about a workshop to be held at the Barbican as part of the hack the barbican  event.


The workshop was called Light an LED with a paper and Pencil, from the description it looked interesting as it would be using conductive inks and threads to make circuits.  I didn’t know much else but thought I would give it a go as would be really relevant to the wearables technology stuff I am working on.

After I signed up I realised that I had recently met Pollie the organiser a week or so ago at the Living Machines Conference that had been held at the Science Museum. She has developed a game called Firefly   which she was demonstrating at the conference.  I had a couple of plays and it was really fun and the ways that you had to interact with other people to play the game was really interesting.

So when I turned up a bit early on Saturday morning it was nice to talk to Pollie some more.  She is a PhD Researcher at Queen Mary University and the Workshop was really a practise for her to run similar ones aimed at introducing technology to the older generation.

We started off by colouring in with a normal pencil a rectangle on a piece of paper then using that to complete a simple battery and LED circuit.  The Graphite in the pencil Lead acts as a resistor so it was possible to vary the brightness of the LED by moving the LED along the coloured in Rectangle.

A couple of variations of this making a little torch and introducing a switch followed next.

The reminded me a lot of one of the projects in my RadioShack 200-in-1 electronics kit (Bit like this one ) that i had when i was little. So really understood the value in it.

Pollie then explained some of the basic electronics theory, Using the Water tank analogy to explain Charge,Voltage,current and resistance and using ohms law to explain how they were connected.  Already knowing this I understood what she was saying but if this was your first time trying to understand electronics I think it would need longer spent on it or be explained in stages.

Anyway on to some more making.  The next little project was to make a pop up card with a fish inside it that had a flashing light in it.


We made the pop up card and this time rather than using a pencil to create the circuit we used conductive paint made by Bare Conductive

The paint was really easy to use, a little bit thick and gloopy which helped to hold the components in.


While the paint dried we had a break.  During the break I had a bit more of a chat with Pollie and Emilie  who I was sat next to  and found out that she and Emilie also work with Codasign . It was really interesting to talk to them both and find out what they do and the technology they are interested in.


The almost finished fish card

After the break we finished off our cards and also using the conductive paints and batteries and LEDs made Codasign robot cards and badges.

Just before leaving I played around with some loose  Graphite powder to do similar things to what we had done at the start with a pencil.  The Graphite powder is more conductive than a pencil because it doesn’t have the clay in it to hold the graphite together.  The disadvantage is that it is a lot messier.



Until recently I have only ever used electronics in quite traditional ways and with quite traditional methods of building circuits and interacting with them but I’m starting to learn there is a lot more to electronics than circuits enclosed in black boxes with buttons and lights on them.

So to wrap up, it was a really interesting morning.  For me it wasn’t about the circuits or the  electronics, it was about meeting interesting people who are doing interesting things and learning about how technology can be used to help people and enrich their lives.




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