prototype heart CU.jpg
prototype heart CU.jpg

Paper Circuitry


Paper Circuitry

What if you could illuminate your thinking? Using simple materials like copper tape, surface mount LEDs and batteries, you can light up your notebook to literally highlight your personal light bulb moments. Explore basic scientific concepts like conductivity, current flow, simple circuit design, and mechanical switches while making your notebook come alive with beautiful electronics.

Educators! Want to learn more about why and how you can bring paper circuitry into your classroom? Download our mini-guide and contact us about bringing Inside/Out to your school, museum, or after-school program.

Introductory Activity: Hack the Storybook



These flat, simple materials make it easy to create circuits anywhere you want them. 


Buy your Starter Kit (5 learners) here.


Project Directions

  1. Print out the storybook template.

  2. Assemble the template into a mini-book. This video from YouTube user Simple and Easy Projects demonstrates.

  3. Choose a story. Use the storyboard page to plan your story in four panels.

  4. In panels 2-4, decide what visual elements should light up in order to enhance the story and circle them.

  5. Using your storyboard as a reference for LED placement, construct circuits on each page. Then draw the scene around the copper tape and LEDs.


Demonstrations and Tutorials


Interested in paper circuitry but not sure how to begin? Start here! In this video demo, we walk you through basic materials and how to make an LED light up. (If you want to illuminate more than one LED, stay tuned for our tutorial on parallel circuits--coming soon!)


To maintain electrical continuity, you have to be careful about how you fold the copper tape if what you're using doesn't have conductive adhesive. We show you how!


What if you want to use more than one light in your paper circuitry project? You need to design a parallel circuit. This demo shows you how to plan and create a parallel circuit in your notebook using type 1206 surface mount LEDs.

Additional Resources and Links

We're working to create our own step-by-step tutorials and a page of tips and tricks. Until then, take a look at some of these resources to spark your imagination and get you started.

Collaborator: Jie Qi, MIT Media Lab

Jie is a doctoral candidate at the MIT Media Lab in the Responsive Environments research group. With a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University, Jie's work blurs the boundaries of science, engineering, and art by exploring the synergistic relationship between technical and artistic competencies. Whether making self-folding origamipaintings that change with viewer interaction, or interactive light-up pop-up books, Jie's playful investigations inspire not only with their beauty but with their implicit invitation for audience to become participant. 


Educator Resources

Educator Resources

Mini-Educator Guides

Our Hack Your Notebook series of mini-educator guides provide a pocket-sized overview of how notebook hacking fits into larger discussions of education policy, standards-aligned class projects as well as introductory activities. Created for educators in professional development settings, these booklets offer unique hands-on explorations in creative learning.

Developed with support from Educator Innovator, powered by the National Writing Project.

Future installments:

  • Amplify Your Ideas: Working with Sound
  • Engineering Your Materials: Working with Pop-Up
  • Remix Your Projects: Working with Transmedia
Click to download PDFs.

Click to download PDFs.

Activity Templates and Worksheets

Basic Paper Circuitry

Activity Template - One Sheet Storybook (click image to download, instructions here) 

Activity Template - One Sheet Storybook (click image to downloadinstructions here

Activity Template - Simple Circuit Card (click image to download)

Activity Template - Simple Circuit Card (click image to download)

Letters to the Next President 2.0 - Creative Process Worksheets

The L2P worksheet has four options for the Storyboard section:

comix, three-panel, scrapbook and callouts.

Download them individually below.






Download all four worksheets in a single file .zip here.

Hack Your Notebook Day Activity Pages

Simple Circuit

Click to download.

Click to download.

Parallel Circuit

Click to download.

Click to download.

Simple Switches

Click to download.

Click to download.

Basic Notebook Hack

Click to download.

Click to download.

Working with Microcontrollers

These two resources were developed to support the Morse Code Secret Message activity found here.

Arduino Morse Code .RTF file

Click to download file.

Click to download file.

The Rhythm of the Light Worksheet

Click to download.

Click to download.

Additional Resources


The creators of circuit stickers have developed a number of resources to support users, including video tutorials, printables, project galleries and a discussion forum.


Notebook Hacking Materials

Notebook Hacking Materials


Part of what makes hacking a 21st century notebook so much fun is the variety of materials you can use to illuminate your thinking and engineer your ideas. Here are some of the materials we've been using and where we get them from.

A note on sources: These are listed in no particular order, although the first source listed is where we generally get that item. Make sure to check out a product's dimensions/length/quantity when comparing prices!

We work with our partner Lectrokit where you can order a starter kit.

See something missing? Please contact us or post to our G+ community!


We're working with CV2/Lectrokit to offer supporting kit supplies in two flavors:

  • a Brown-Bag Starter Kit for five people, designed for program staff and educators who want to together to explore paper circuitry 
  • a Classroom Kit for 30 participants with the same materials

These collections use 3v Lithium batteries with solderable tabs -- they're low-profile, letting you integrated the battery easily on your paper project -- and if your want to solder them in place, no problem.

Each kit comes with clip leads, batteries, circuit stickers from Chibitronics and a roll of copper tape. 


Sources & Supplies

Pre-assembled Kits - buy here

Power Supplies & Housing

Conductive Materials for Traces and Jumpers

Things to Activate with Power


  • Soldering station & iron - Weller is a well-respected manufacturer
  • Tweezers - Useful for soldering small components like SMD LEDs
  • Tiny AVR Programmer (SparkFun) - For programming ATtiny microprocessors
  • Transparent tape
  • Scissors