Around the Stacks

September 2017 #YouthShare: News You Can Use

September YouthShare: News You Can Use

by Katelyn Patterson

Circuit Blocks!

Recently on a trip to the Thinkery here in Austin with my own kiddos I saw these Circuit Blocks and fell madly in love.

I thought they were a wonderful, inexpensive way to get kids playing with electronics and could see them working well in a library setting. While I enjoy sets like Snap Circuits, I love that these use every day objects helping children see how these concepts are used all around them. I decided to make a set and used this Instructables page as a guide.

First we cut a 2×4 into small squares and rectangles and then sanded them by hand to make sure no little hands got splinters. Then we got busy creating different kinds of blocks. There are three kinds of blocks to make: power, output, and switches.

Power blocks can be anything from a battery pack to a solar panel to a hand crank. Below are two solar panels and two battery pack blocks.

Output blocks are motors, LEDs, light bulbs, fans, and buzzers. Starting at the top left you see a motor with a cork attached to it, in the middle a buzzer, and two small motors with propellers at the top right. At the bottom you have LEDs and a light bulb.
Switches can be light switches, potentiometers (such as a light dimmer), and mad scientist knife switches. Below you see a knife switch on the left and a light switch on the right.

Everything was glued on to the blocks using a hot glue gun except for the nails which were simply hammered in. We got copper covered nails, but that really wasn’t necessary. Most of the electronic elements came with wire, but thin copper wire can be used when necessary. A soldering iron was used to fuse the wire to the nails. Finally, you will need Gator clips to close your circuits.

And then, play with them! We figured out that the solar panels didn’t generate enough power for the buzzer but did for the fans. See how many power sources and outputs you can string together. How complicated can you make your circuit?

All together I spent $100 on this project and have enough supplies to make more than one of several of the blocks pictured above. That amount includes a soldering iron kit for $17 as I didn’t have one. Beyond that, the most expensive part of this can be the various electronic elements for output such as buzzers, motors, and lights. You could break these out as a passive program or as part of a larger STEM program that has stations exploring different activities. Making them was half the fun and would be a great project for teen volunteers!Do any of you have circuit blocks? Please let me know if you try this project out. I can share links to the exact products that I purchased for anyone interested.

Save the Date for Showcase!

Please save the date for our annual Central Texas Performer Showcase to be held at the Georgetown Public Library on Friday, November 3rd. Registration to attend will be sent out closer to the event, but mark your calendars so you can see before you hire!