Check out our new holiday bundles to find the perfect gift for every young inventor

Lesson One: Craft a Simple Circuit

Learn how a simple circuit works so you can create your first circuit and light your first LED! You will learn how to craft a simple circuit, learn how Makey Makey works by completing a circuit, and learn how humans can connect to make a key press on your computer!

A Simple Circuit

 Makey Makey works by completing a circuit. So it is important you build one to understand how a circuit works!

A simple circuit flows in a loop. The electrons flow from the positive side of the battery, to the LED lighting it up, and back down to the negative side of the battery completing the loop and closing the circuit.

To craft your circuit, you need conductive material to help those electrons flow and light up your LED. When lighting an LED or a bulb it is also important to wire up your circuit with the correct polarity. If you hook up your LED incorrectly (say the positive side of the LED to the negative conductive trace) your LED will not light up.


Let's Craft a Circuit!

If you've never built a paper circuit, this lecture will walk you through crafting your first circuit! In the coding world, we like to say "Hello World!" with our first line of code. With paper circuits, we say "Hello Light!" Download the template and follow along. 

Troubleshooting Tips

It is important to note that electrons are lazy and if they find an easier way to close the loop, you will short your circuit and your LED won't light up! So this means if you are having trouble lighting an LED with this simple circuit template, you should check:

  • Does the positive circuit trace ever come in contact with the negative circuit trace? Make sure to leave a gap under your LED. (If your positive trace goes directly to your negative trace, then the electrons will not be forced THROUGH the LED. Think of this like cats and dogs fighting- you have to keep the two lines separated!)
  • Do the circuit traces accidentally touch where you've made your battery connections?
  • Is your LED wired correctly?

Need Supplies? Hack a Tea Light!

Maybe you don't have access to an LED and a coin cell battery? You never know, you might have these exact items in something at home! Do you have any thing small that lights up? You might have one of these dollar store tea lights you can use to craft a simple circuit. Here is a quick walk through in hacking a tea light to make a paper circuit. (Video includes how to draw out your circuit if you don't have access to a printer.)


Need to check the polarity of your LED? Here are 5 simple way to determine your LED polarity from maker Nikodem Bartnik!



A Makey Makey Circuit

The great news is that when you Makey Makey a circuit, you don't have to worry about polarity and you only have to have two conductive items and something that bridges that circuit to make the circuit a closed path! For example: One person can hold an EARTH wire and another person can hold a KEY PRESS wire and when they fist bump, it will complete the circuit and activate the Makey Makey. Alternatively, if one person holds both wires, the loop will always be closed and the circuit always complete!

Head to the Next Lesson

Once you've crafted a circuit, it's time for Lesson Two: Hands on a Makey Makey.


Simple Circuit: A circuit is a closed loop that allows current to flow. In our simple circuit, the electrons flow from the battery, up through the LED, and back to the power source. A closed circuit requires a conductive path, a power source, and a non-conductive area. You can open and close a circuit, we will learn more about this in the next few lessons!

Short Circuit: Electrons are lazy! If they can skip ahead, they will! Your electrons will skip the LED if they can find a conductive path around it! When using Makey Makey, the most common short circuit is the wires connecting or alligator clip heads touching. 

Polarity: There are two types of poles in electricity. A positive (+ Cathode) and a negative (- Anode). Some electrical components have specific polarity requirements. For instance, an LED will only light up if you have wired the polarity correctly to your power source. Whereas, some motors do not require a specific current direction and they will power either way you hook them up. Instead, the way you hook it up will change the direction of the spinning motor! 

LED: An LED is a light emitting diode. That means it is a particular type of diode that converts electrical energy into LIGHT! You are surrounded by LEDs! Can you think of things in your house that have LEDs inside that create a light source?




    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aenean pharetra, ligula non mollis pretium, lectus libero sodales augue, interdum auctor mauris dui non risus. Nulla facilisi. Nunc rutrum diam in elit sagittis eget viverra erat viverra. Morbi imperdiet aliquet libero vel rhoncus. Integer.