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Making party lights using circuits and switches

Students learn the basics of electrical circuits and switches by building a simple string of lights. Then using Excel, they choreograph their own light patterns that they can record and present.

This three-day activity introduces students to electrical circuits and how to use a circuit to create a light switch. Students construct electrical circuits consisting of four fundamental components—power source, load, conductor, and switch. With these circuits, students create party lights that are manually controlled or set to music they choose. Students then replace the DIY switch with a microcontroller connected to a custom Excel workbook.

Here they learn the benefits of digital switching and light sequence coding. This interdisciplinary lesson places students in a real-world setting as they design a party lights for an upcoming school celebration. It leverages Excel’s powerful visualizations to 
engage students in understanding the basics of circuitry and the benefits of digital switching. You may invite your students to present their light sequences using Flipgrid  

Please note that lesson activities will require adult supervision. 

Target grades: 4-8th grade9-14 years Duration: Three 50-minute class periods 

Real-world roles: Electrical engineers, mechanical engineers  
Disciplines: Physical science, computer science 

 

 Learning objectives 

  • Research the primary components of an electrical circuit. 
  • Draw a technical diagram of a basic circuit using industry standard symbols. 
  • Build a circuit and construct a switch that allows for manual control of an LED light. 
  • Connect a basic circuit to a microcontroller and Excel workbook to program light sequences. 

 

Activity 1:  

Students research the components of an electrical circuit and draw a technical diagram of a circuit. 

Activity 2:  Build a switched electrical circuit 

Students build a circuit and construct a switch that allows for manual control of an LED light. 

Activity 3:Visualization and control 

Students connect a basic circuit to a microcontroller and Excel workbook to program light sequences. 

Activity 4: Record and share your party lights 

 

 Resources 

Use these resources to explore more information on stage lighting and electrical circuits. 

Resource Guide on Basic Circuits – Hacking STEM 
What is a circuit? – SparkFun 
How circuits work - How Stuff Works 
Choreographing the dance of traffic lights – The New York Times 
Stage lighting for students – Stage Lighting Primer 
How to become a lighting technician - Careers in Music 

 

picture

Individual Kit

picture

Classroom Kit

 

What's need

Items

Individual

Group

Double sided alligator clips

2

20

Jumbo LED

2

20

AA battery holder

1

10

AA batteries

2

20

Wooden craft stick

1

10

Solid core wire (30 cm)

2

20

Pin-ended alligator clips

3

30

Copper Tape (approx. 9 cm)

4

40

Wire strippers

1

10

 

 

Micro:bit microcontroller

1

10

Prototyping breadboard

1

10

Edge Connector

1

10

USB cable micro

1

10

 

 

Needed, Not Included

Cardboard (2.5 cm x 10 cm)

2

20

Cardboard (4 cm x 10 cm)

1

10

Cardboard (10 cm x 25 cm)

3

30

Adhesive tape

1

10

Hot glue gun + glue sticks

1

10

Marker

1

10

Scissors

1

10

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