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Take & Make Kits

Materials

Example card that says "brighter days ahead."This kit provides the instructions and materials needed to make a light-up greeting card. We'll walk you through the steps to make a paper circuit and leave it to you to personalize your card.
 

This tutorial was adapted from "Light-Up Valentine Cards" from Sparkfun Electronics under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

Included in Your Kit

  • Copper tape
  • LED
  • Coin cell battery
  • LilyPad button board
  • Cardstock
  • Scotch tape
  • Colored pencils
  • X-acto Knife

Extra Supplies

  • Scissors
  • Other art supplies (markers, glitter, etc.)
  • Glue stick
  • Paper clip or coin
  • Ruler

Working with LEDs

In order to power our LED, we’ll be making a paper circuit. A circuit is a closed loop that electrons travel through, powered by electricity such as a battery. Learn more about circuits from Sparkfun Electronics: What is a circuit?

Take a look at your LED and you’ll notice that one leg is longer than the other. The longer leg is the positive side, known as the “anode.” The shorter leg is called the “cathode” and has a negative charge. Current flows from the anode to the cathode. If your LED is set up incorrectly it won’t turn on, but all you have to do is flip it around.

Make Copper Traces

1. On the white piece of paper, you’ll find a template for creating the circuit. Grab the copper tape, peel away the paper backing, and stick it along Line A.

2. Next we'll place tape along Line B which includes a corner. To maintain a connection of copper around corners, use a folding technique to press the tape into shape. Start by sticking the copper tape down until you reach the corner, then fold the tape backward on itself. Use a fingernail or pen to give it a good crease at the edge. Then carefully move the tape down around the corner - you should see the fold forming - and press down flat against the paper. The neatness of the fold doesn't matter that much, it will be covered by your pop up in the end. Finally, cut the tape when you reach the scissors icon.

  

3. Then place a small piece of copper tape along Line C which will also form a battery holder. We'll start by folding 1/2" of copper tape onto itself, sticking the adhesive sides together to form a flap. This allows the top of the copper to fold down over the coin cell battery - the positive side of the battery is the top and negative side is the bottom, which allows us to create a 'battery sandwich' with copper tape touching each side. We won’t be installing the battery until the end of the project, so set that aside for now.

 

Place the LED

4. Each template has an LED symbol which shows a shaped wire - we use this method to help us remember which side is positive and negative on the LED. We’ll need to bend our LED to prepare it for our circuit. Using pliers (or your finger) bend the longer leg of the LED flat. Then form the wire into a zig zag shape. Be careful not to break the wire by bending back and forth over the same joint too many times.

5. Next, bend the other leg flat and curl into a spiral. Use the end of the pliers to lightly grab the end of the wire and curl around the tool. You can also do this with your fingers if you don’t have pliers.

6. Once all shaping is complete, place the LED on a table or flat surface to make sure it sits flat and upright. Tape down the legs with scotch tape.

Add the LilyPad Button

7. Next, we'll place the LilyPad button over the oval icon on the template facing up. It doesn't matter which side touches positive and negative. Make sure the conductive pads on the bottom of the button touch the copper tape, then tape down the ends with clear tape. Be careful not to tape directly over the push part of the button or it may interfere with the ability to press it. 

Insert Battery

8. Once all the components are installed, it's time to test our circuit by adding a battery. Carefully slip the battery underneath the copper tape flap we made earlier, and center it inside the circle icon. Make sure the positive side of the battery (top, marked with the battery model and +) is facing up. Press the copper over the battery, and tape with clear tape. Now, press the button, and the LED should light up! Your finished circuit should look something like this:

Troubleshooting

If your LED doesn’t light up, try the following:

  • Check the tape connections - use your nails or a pencil to make sure the tape is firmly adhering the components to the copper tape.
  • Check the battery - make sure it is sandwiched firmly between the top and bottom copper tape lines and that the top copper is not accidentally touching the bottom of the battery.
  • Check the wires of the LED - double check that they weren't accidentally broken while bending them into shapes with pliers.

Create Your Pop-Up Card

9. Use your X-acto knife to cut along the solid lines of your colored cardstock. Then cut out the square grid in the middle of the page.

10. Drag the dull side of a paper clip or coin along the dotted lines to score them and make them easier to fold. Fold the lines in order to make the frame pop out in the middle.

11. Cut a piece of paper to fit inside the frame and decorate it however you like. Then tape your decorated paper inside the card stock. Add an arrow or a symbol to show where the button is.

  

12. Glue or tape your pop up card inside the white card stock to finish constructing your card. Now it’s time to add the finishing touches and give your card to someone special!