Repurposing with Squishy Circuits

Diving into the goal for the week -to create an activity and design a lesson plan using a maker kit and

items found while thrifting- in truth, I felt overwhelmed. As much as I try to maintain an open mind

about all subjects as both a teacher and a student, science (especially the electrical type) has never been

my forte. I was, I suppose, frightened of the unknown. As a way to monitor both the experience of the

assignment itself, as well as my own reflection upon it, I decided to track my efficacy at each stage of

the process.

 

On Sunday night, I began to mull over possible goals to be accomplished by my maker kit. Squishy

Circuits, a brilliant and cost-effective product, albeit highly accessible, was still unfamiliar to me.

Could I use the kit as a team-building or collaborative activity? Should I effectively turn students loose

with the materials -once I found them- to create an ill-structured problem, or should I minimize chaos

by providing a well-structured activity? At this point, my efficacy was low with regard to both building

Squishy Circuits and incorporating items from the thrift shop.

On Monday, I spent about five hours exploring and “playing” with Squishy Circuits. Beginning with

the maker website, I pored through numerous documents and tutorials which proved helpful in building

my understanding of the process. Following are the links I found to be of high benefit:

Building Circuits: circuit basics, motor circuit, buzzer circuit, squishy animal, squishy battery
Video Tutorials: how to make conductive dough, how to make insulating dough, circuit basics, LED and calculations, Squishy Circuits and small children, motors, squishy battery, squishy animal
Helpful Results from Curriculum Ideas Search
 
Curriculum Ideas (document)
UCLA Lesson (document)

Following this online exploration, I continued with a trip to the local Goodwill. In the store, I searched

for both conductive and insulating materials. Upon leaving Goodwill with a collection of small

electronics, ties, and seashells, my efficacy regarding designing a classroom curricular activity using

thrift shop items had improved to an “intermediate” level as my ideas for classroom integration were

beginning to form, but were not yet solidified.

 

Copper

Possible conductor?

 

Chimes

Another possible conductor?

Conductors

A whole shelf of possible conductors!

examining

My helpful assistant (little brother) examines small electronics with me. He rode along to Goodwill.

Total

 

The total for the purchased items.

Following the Squishy Circuits recipes, I prepared both the conductive and insulating dough and

proceeded to attempt a simple circuit, which proved successful and bolstered my efficacy in creating

slightly more complicated circuits, involving LED’s, buzzers, and a motor.

Dough

Squishy Dough:

Blue is conductive and off-white is insulating…insulating was a LOT messier to make- that sugar!

YouTube clips from my own “Squishy Play” (select Videos- there are 12 of them!): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmtWK_P26ebD0972lbcPClA/videos

 

Aspiring higher, I wondered if I might be able to power a small clock or CD player acquired at

Goodwill and design a classroom activity around that. After two hours of trial, error, and repeated

failure, I reached the conclusion that I would need to re-envision my lesson plan. However, I did not

feel as discouraged as I normally would have after encountering frustration level, as I internalized my

learning from last week- that failure is part of the creation process. Indeed, I began to synthesize my

increased efficacy with “squishy circuitry” as well as my science content knowledge and pedagogical

emphasis on student collaboration to determine a new direction.

 

CD Player

Attempting to use dough to power a personal CD player. I could not complete a full circuit since the

battery configuration is not the same as the Squishy Circuits battery pack.

 

Insulation

Working on an insulated dough configuration that might power a flashlight.

 

Flashlight

The fifth attempt to power this flashlight. Finally created a design that will both complete a circuit and

fit inside the battery chamber.

Test

The same flashlight-attempt circuit powering an LED outside the flashlight. My boyfriend suggested

this trial idea to me and our conjecture is that although the circuit is complete in a stand-alone

environment, the flashlight uses the pressurized end to conduct it, so the design will not turn on the

lightbulb.

 

Armed with my now-high efficacy with basic Squishy Circuits, I deepened by investigation, exploring

properties of conduction and insulation. Following are some helpful references I found:

 

 

During a trip to an additional Goodwill store to purchase electricity-conducting items, I

rebuilt some circuits and modified others. One of my most third grade-accessible creations incorporated

a metal candle lamp. Recognizing the value of incorporating both content knowledge and team-
building, I used the lamp idea to connect recently-acquired student knowledge of how light travels with

the LED’s function in a circuit to create the apparatus you will see in my video tutorial. My lesson plan

(available for download at this link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Jvu_rqDDQ4PIjLLgF-ZoSD-31zpc_fOPf3BQa3_UMP8/edit?usp=sharing

explains the challenge presented to teams of students, which

involves incorporating the metal lamp into the Squishy Circuit to create a signal device that the teams

will then use to participate in a unit-review game. This process will be especially relevant following

our third grade science unit on light, and will be further applicable when used in future review games,

spiraling back to previously-learned concepts.

 

While I look forward to modifying and refining my thinking next week, as I reflect on the process,

I recognize the degree to which failure is imminent when, as students and as teachers, we begin

with low efficacy and little schema and attempt to work our way toward high efficacy and complex

understanding. As nonthreatening as it may sound, building a circuit involving found items initially

seemed like an insurmountable task, as I had virtually no prior knowledge. However, monitoring the

process in an Evernote document and tracking my efficacy at each stage actually served to increase that

efficacy to the point at which I could actually create something repurposed and applicable to students.

Note: The visual and multimodal media presented in this post are intended to enhance and complete

the reader’s understanding of multi-faceted process. They are included to contribute to the chronology

of the project and support the text by creating a visual representation, illustrating the journey of

improved efficacy.

 

Squishy Circuits Signaling Lamp

Object

To use Squishy Circuits to create a signaling device for use in third grade review game, incorporating a metal lamp found while thrifting.

Materials

Squishy Circuits Items (Squishy Circuits starter kits -1 per team of 3-4 students- are recommended and will supply all the necessary elements)

Battery pack designed for AA batteries
4 high-quality AA batteries
Small polarized LED’s
Conductive dough (see ingredients in recipe 1)
Insulating dough (see ingredients recipe 2)

Additional Items
Assorted small metal electricity-conducting lamps, bulbs removed
-OR-
Assorted small metal electricity-conducting candle holders- preferably with metal shades

 

Step by Step Process (See the how-to video by clicking this link) :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8gwjv77utQ

1) Prepare conductive dough (*see link above)

2) Prepare insulating dough (**see link above)

3) Insert 4 AA batteries into Squishy Circuits battery pack. This battery pack will provide 6 volts of power. Be careful not to touch the two wires together.

4) Roll conductive dough into two spheres. The shape is not critical.

5) Keeping battery pack turned off, insert the negative wire into one sphere of dough and the positive wire into another. The more surface area covered on each end of the wire, the stronger the current will flow.

6) Sculpt a layer of insulating dough and place between the mounds of conductive dough to ensure that they do not touch and “short out” the circuit.

7) Roll two long “snakes” (ropes) of conductive dough.

8) Prepare two strips of insulating dough and adhere them firmly, one to each rope of conductive dough.

9) Attach the rope combinations from the base, up the neck of the lamp, to the platform, ensuring that they do not touch each other, and that the insulating side touches the metal neck.

10) Extend the conductive ropes as necessary to touch lamp’s metal platform (the spot where the light bulb or candle would go).

11) Gently separate the legs of the LED; place the short leg into the end of the negative conductive “snake” and the longer leg into the end of the positive conductive “snake.”

12) Turn on the battery pack. If your circuit has not shorted out, it will light up the LED!

Note: If your LED does not light-up, check the following troubleshooting points:

The correct batteries are properly inserted in the battery pack.
The ropes are tightly adhered to the mounds of dough connected to the battery pack. You may want to “squish” these together to ensure their conductivity.
The insulating dough protects the two main mounds of dough from touching.
The “snakes” of dough are insulated from one another.
The ends of the conductive wires are fully adhered to the conductive dough.
The ends of the ropes touching the lamp’s platform are conductive.
The conductive dough does not touch the metal lamp until it reaches the platform.
The LED is touching each side of the conductive circuit.

 

References

Johnson, S. and Thomas, A.M. (2011). Using Squishy Circuit technology in the classroom. American Society for Engineering Education. Retrieved from St. Thomas Squishy Circuits website

Kim, G. and Schmitdbauer, M. (2013, July 18). “Maker camp 2013.” [YouTube]. Make. Retrieved from

Mylène. (2012, April 15). “K-12 engineering: squishy circuits tips and tricks.” Shifting Phases. Retrieved from

http://shiftingphases.com/2012/04/15/k-12-engineering-squishy-circuits-tips-and-tricks/

Dough creatures. ( 2011). PBS: SciGirls. Retrived from PBS Online

http://www-tc.pbs.org/teachers/includes/content/scigirls/activities/tech/doughcreatures.pdf

Nguyen, C. and Roth-Johnson, P. (2013). “Lesson plan for Squishy Circuits.” Beam UCLA. Retrieved from Beam UCLA website

SquiggleMom. (2013, August 11). “Snake, house.” [YouTube]. Squishy Circuits Projects. Retrieved from

Thomas, A.M. (2011, April 4). “Hands-on science with Squishy Circuits.” [YouTube]. TED Talks. Retrieved from

Todd, Sylvia. (2012, January 17). “Squishy Circuits- Sylvia’s mini maker show.” [YouTube]. Make. Retrieved from

University of St. Thomas. (2011). Squishy circuits. Retrieved from from University of St. Thomas website http://courseweb.stthomas.edu/apthomas/SquishyCircuits/index.htm

Note: The visual and multimodal media presented in this post are intended to enhance and complete the reader’s understanding of multi-faceted process. They are included to contribute to the chronology of the project and support the text by creating a visual representation, illustrating the journey of improved efficacy.

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2 thoughts on “Repurposing with Squishy Circuits

  1. Great lesson Carlie, lot of details! I’m actually planning on doing this lesson with my 3rd graders in the science lab this year so your instructions and lesson plan are really going to be helpful in getting started. I was just wondering a few things:

    1. How long did it take to make the conductive and insulating dough?

    2. Do you think 3rd graders would be able to handle making the dough themselves?

    Thanks,
    -Ryan

  2. Hi Carlie,
    I love Squishy Circuits, they are so much fun, especially with the younger students. Thanks for your Blog, there are a few new great ideas I look forward to ‘borrowing’ for my students next year, I also really appreciate the photos you have included, as my brain works so much better when I can actually see things, it also lets my mind roam, allowing me to come up with even more improvements on my own ideas. Most of my best ideas are ‘Remixed’ from other MAET Students.
    Thanks again,
    Andy

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