In addition to crafting an environment conducive to paper circuit building, we've also spent time exploring different ways of facilitating the activity (and reflecting on our experiences so far). As soon as visitors enter the space, we like to start by sharing a couple of different types of examples with them: circuits which are designed and constructed entirely out of the copper tape and circuits which lay behind another layer of paper. We've found that this variety of examples helps to demonstrate both a range of circuit implementations and papercraft techniques.
As visitors transition from playing with the examples to building their own circuits, we try to provide some helpful suggestions for getting started. One helpful approach has been to encourage visitors to use red and black colored pencils to sketch out their circuit's "positive" and "negative" electrical paths.
Another starting point that we've offered is to decide where a visitor would like her like her battery and lights to go, and then to sketch paths onto the paper which carry the electricity between them. As visitors start the building process, we've also offered to demonstrate helpful skills and techniques - such as using a soldering iron or creating curves and sharp corners with the copper tape. More generally, we've experimented a lot with the language we use to talk about circuits and at what point in the process to share tips (all at the beginning of the activity or on an as-needed basis).
While we've really enjoyed being able to introduce visitors to soldering in the context of paper circuits (both for attaching LEDs and bridging breaks in the tape), it's also turned out to be a bit of a bottleneck. Having two or more facilitators in the space really helps with this, but soldering takes time and even with plenty of facilitators there may be a wait to use a soldering iron. Because of this, we've been encouraging visitors to prototype their circuits using scotch tape to attach the LEDs. (Testing things out with scotch tape first also allows people to play around with ideas and troubleshoot before committing to any particular arrangement of lights.) In the cases that we have been able to introduce visitors to soldering, we've observed a lot of confidence and skill building as they work on their projects.
Last but not least, we've noticed (and experienced firsthand ourselves) that sometimes it's just helpful to be able to iterate on an idea and make multiple circuits. While some visitors are content to make one circuit in their time with us, others have progressively worked on a few different circuits of varying complexity. We've found that allowing the time and space for this experimentation has allowed visitors to create all sorts of beautifully designed and cleverly functioning circuits.