Explore the conductivity of everyday materials to create homemade switches that control a variety of outputs and complexify larger projects
Share what you create and try out with us by using the hashtag #HomemadeSwitches.
What’s conductive around you? Explore materiality as you gather interesting, conductive objects to make delightful switches. Combine these with craft materials to customize your designs and add personality and whimsy.
Here are some materials to keep in mind as you collect your materials set:
☐ Conductive Materials: aluminum foil, graphite pencils, electrical wire, copper wire, copper tape, kitchen utensils, metal spring, pot lids, steel ball bearings, Play-Doh
☐ Craft Materials: clothespins, colorful paper, craft foam, feathers, balloons, recyclables
☐ Electronics Components*: battery packs, variety of outputs (motors, lights, buzzers), multimeter, alligator clips
*See Circuit Boards to learn how to make our battery packs and output blocks.
Start your initial explorations by making a circuit with a simple switch. This usually consists of three parts: the power source (like a battery pack), an output (like a light bulb or LED), and your switch. We recommend starting with aluminum foil because it’s easy to manipulate, and alligator clip wires are a great way to build connections between components.
You can make a simple push switch with two pieces of aluminum foil separated by a "donut" of craft foam. The foam holds the pieces apart until you push on the center of the top piece of foil to bring the two sheets together to complete the circuit.
Depending on where you place conductive material, clothespins can make switches that are always on or off.
Switches can come in many forms, including this feather switch! When the spring holding the feather comes in contact with the copper tube, it momentarily completes the circuit.
Play With Cause and Effect
Homemade switches can add magic and suspense to a chain reaction. They help keep the momentum going and create variation in the machine. Play around with your switch and play around with adding another element. For the chain reaction on the left, how would you extend it?
The tennis ball rolls and knocks down the block, which completes the switch and spins the fishbowl, and then ...
Engineer's Mini Notebook: Sensor Projects by Forrest M Mims III
We love the aestethics and content of Mims' books. His books, widely sold at RadioShack, were hand drawn and written. Mims comes from an amateur science background, and his detailed explanations leave readers feeling empowered to try out circuitry on their own.