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Squishy Circuits

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While learning about conductors, insulators, and the flow of electricity through a circuit, participants use conductive and insulating clay to build a circuit that makes their clay creation light up or buzz.

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Related Programming Resources

Hints for uses in your library Squishy Circuits are an engaging way to explore how circuits work -- while encouraging creativity! Before facilitating this activity, practice making your own circuits and/or use the online circuit simulations at https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulations/category/physics/electricity-magnets-and-circuits.
Related Links STEAM Storytime: Electricity & Magnetism
It's Electric!
Interactive Online Circuit Simulations
Originating Source DiscoverE (http://www.discovere.org), adapted from the Squishy Circuits Store (squishycircuits.com) and the University of St. Thomas (stthomas.edu/squishycircuits)
Related Books
[Suggest a book]
Vogel, Julia, and Jane Yamada. 2011. Plug it in!: learn about electricity. Mankato, Minn: Child's World., http://www.worldcat.org/title/plug-it-in-learn-about-electricity/oclc/567188686

Reviews

Rating 
Participants Enjoyed the Activity 
Participants Learned from This Activity 
Activity Instructions Were Clear and Easy to Follow 
Would Recommend 
12/06/2017

Serious fun.

We had entirely too much fun with Squishy Circuits! We opted to purchase the various electronic components directly from the Squishy Circuits people back when they were still just a project of the University of St. Thomas’ Playful Learning Lab, but our kit sort of fell through the cracks. (In our defense: it’s small.) We pulled it off of the shelf where it had been languishing, however, and we’re so glad we did! As a note, you can purchase the various electronic components from a hardware store, but we did a price comparison and the value was roughly equal to purchasing them from the Squishy Circuits store. If you put the kit together yourself you won’t receive technical support or replacement/return assistance from the Squishy Circuits people, who are really quite helpful. It’s a trade-off.

Our kit has the basic “Standard Kit – Prior Generation” components. The box included recipes but no pre-mixed dough, no color-changing LEDs, and fewer LEDs overall than the newer kits. We found that the standard kit and one standard recipe batch each of conductive and insulating doughs was perfect for a group of around five kids. Once more kids arrived, we had to start running the Squishy Circuits activity in shifts—which is not an insurmountable challenge, as we had other Makerspace stations going simultaneously that we could send them to work with. Just be aware that the battery pack will be in high demand—also, it has some fragile elements which will see a great deal of wear—and that there aren’t enough LEDs for more than five kids to complete even a basic circuit challenge at a time unless you (a) purchase or (b) put together multiple sets.

Mix extra dough! By which I mean: mix at least five batches for a group of 15 kids. The insulating dough is in less demand than the conductive.

I highly recommend taking a good long look at the Squishy Circuits website before you mix your doughs, and watching the step-by-step videos. I mixed my first batch out of order, being the compulsive person that I am, and it turned out gritty and dry. Dry playdough is … not great for small hands and worse still if you want to use the dough multiple times at multiple events.

The Squishy Circuits website also includes some projects of varying degrees of difficulty that are useful to print out and try, in addition to the activities linked from this activity sheet. Most if not all of them require adult assistance, however, as they include only a couple of pictures and diagrams and rely on text for detailed explanations. The main gist of each project is that the conductive pieces of dough must be COMPLETELY separated by insulating dough for the circuit to work properly! And believe me, if the circuit doesn’t work properly, you WILL be required to provide assistance to the kiddos, who know exactly what they want. Which is for light bulbs to shine and buzzers to buzz. Loudly.

Oh, yes, and the buzzer included in the standard Squishy Circuits kit sounds a lot like a smoke alarm, so be aware that you might have some curious people sticking their heads in and out to find out what’s going on. Free marketing OR a free visit from your concerned neighbors? You be the judge!

In summary: buy more LEDs. Buy more battery packs and wires. Mix WAY more dough than you think you will need. And then you’ll be set!

This activity served as a great draw for our Makerspace program, especially for parents of kiddos in the preschool to kindergarten range. We advertised on Facebook and ended up with double the number of kids as usual, many of them first-timers. You may not want to run this program (i.e. mix dough) every week, but for banner events and special occasions, it’s perfect.

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Squishy Circuits

Squishy Circuits

While learning about conductors, insulators, and the flow of electricity through a circuit, participants use conductive and insulating clay to build a circuit that makes their clay creation light up or buzz.