Play Dough Circuits and Robot Fest

in pictures

by , posted on May 2nd, 2011 in Arts & Crafts, Science Fun, Technology


On Saturday, we exhibited at the Mid-Atlantic Robot Fest and Mini Maker Faire. We had so much fun!

Prior to the event, I had spoken with organizers Gary Mauler and Scott Austin about Ellie Bellie Kids/Classic Play hosting a table. I wanted to provide a hands-on activity for young kids that would get them excited about science so, I asked them for ideas. During our chat, Gary pulled up a short TED video (and y’all know how I love the TED videos) by Anne Marie Thomas featuring an innovative, fun and simple project using homemade play dough to make simple circuits.

Basically this is how it works in a nutshell, you make two types of play dough: one using salt, the other using sugar. The salt dough is conductive and the sugar dough is insulating. Plug in leads from a battery pack into the conductive dough and you create squishy circuits that will cause LEDs to light and small motors to whir.

So thanks to the work of Dr. Thomas and her team who developed this, our team introduced Squishy Circuits to kids at Robot Fest.



For directions on how to do this activity, visit the Squishy Circuits site. There you’ll find the dough recipes, instructions on how to create circuits, where to buy the materials and more.



After doing this activity for an entire day with tons of kids, here’s what I can say: I love it. Why? First of all, it’s not intimidating. Hand kids some play dough to sculpt, a couple lights and voila! You’ve got ‘em hooked.



Other things I love: it’s inexpensive, you can do it with a large or small group, and your kid would totally rock the science fair if he or she did this as their project.

It’s a brilliant hands-on activity that demonstrates how electricity travels and how it chooses the path of least resistance. You should have seen the kids faces when they pushed the conductive play dough together to create a short (making the light go out) and then separated it again to make the light go on. We could have told them what would happen, but for them to see it meant so much more.



This activity blends, play, art and science and allows kids to explore and experiment at their own pace. So they not only learn more, they remember what they learned for longer. Plus, there’s a lot of room for creativity. Kids were making circuits shaped like butterflies, bullseyes, hamburgers. You name it!



As far as the rest of Robot Fest/Mini Maker Faire? We met so many amazing people. There were artists, engineers, innovators, educators, and all around fantastic people. It’s a wonderful community.



Many, many thanks to Gary and Scott for having us. We can’t wait to return next year!


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6 Responses to “Play Dough Circuits and Robot Fest”

  1. mr tom Says:

    May 2nd, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    The play dough conducts electricity! That’s awesome ;o)

    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    It does! It does! The store bought version will as well but the homemade version has 1/2 the resistance so it’s better for this experiment. Cool, yeah?!

  2. Chantale Says:

    May 3rd, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    This is so cool! I love the photos and definitely the illustrations of the bots. The kiddo came home with a whirly gig thing from her sciences en folie class a few weeks ago, but it was connected to a battery. Can we make this together you think?? Cuz she’d love it! btw Jen, you look TERRIFIC!

    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    Chantale, you could TOTALLY do this. In fact, let me send you one of the battery packs I already assembled. Then all you have to do is buy some batteries and make the playdough. She can hook it up!

    I have some left over and I still owe Miss Kiki a certificate and gift for participating in screen free week! ;)

  3. Chantale Says:

    May 4th, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Hey Jen! Are you sure you’re not going to use the battery pack? That would be awesome! Saves me a trip to Radio Shack. lol. Uh, does Keira get a certificate for only half a week? 4 days.. blurp.
    Thanks so much Jen, I really appreciate it! :)

  4. And Now the News… Says:

    May 20th, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    [...] Robot Fest & Play Dough Circuits post gets a shout out on Momtastic’s science experiments to do at [...]

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