Exercise 1: LEDs Are Awesome!

Do this

Use whatever materials and items you can find to make one LED look totally impressive!

  • choose the brightest LED you can find and in any color you like.

  • Use the Arduino program and circuit from the previous assignment to turn the LED on.

  • Find and test some items and materials that could disperse, filter or reflect light in interesting ways.

  • Create weird shadows or change the mood of a space with your LED.

  • You can combine two or more materials. For example, maybe the effect is stronger if you first disperse the light in all directions and then make shadows with it?

  • Keep it simple!

  • Use extension wires so it's easier to experiment with the LED

There's one more video below for some extra inspiration !

LED and Slime Experiments

Educator notes

This exercise is designed to help the students combine their own ideas and pre-existing skills and knowledge from outside the realm of electronics into the topic at hand, and it prepares the students to the creative, project-based approach. 

The exercise makes use of the behavior of light. The light of an LED is very directional which means the light must often be reflected, refracted, dispersed or filtered with different materials in actual lighting devices. Creating shadows or placing LEDs inside objects or crafted items will also change how the light looks like. 

Ideas for facilitating the exercise

You can extend this exercise into a longer teaching session, instead of an independent exercise.

Some ideas:

  • Give the students an LED and a 3V coin cell battery (with safety cautions!) and ask them to test different materials and ideas as their home work. Students present their findings and finish the exercise in the beginning of the next lesson
  • Have a look at the list of possible materials below and provide a selection of them in the classroom for the students. Some crafting tools are also useful.
  • Instruct the students to go around the school for a certain amount of time and make perceptions - can they find materials that can be used for this exercise? Provide the students with an LED and a 3V coin cell battery (with cautions!)
  • Instruct the students to make observations on materials and techniques used in actual lighting devices around them and as presented online. When would they use direct LED light? When is it important to disperse light first
  • Giving the students a time limit of eg. 15 minutes may make it easier to concentrate and get the exercise done effectively. Time limit will help to keep the project small and simple enough.

Making observations outside the classroom and harvesting the materials is a good start!

Ideas for materials

If students are struggling, you can give them a hint of some materials they can try out.

Change the way the light travels:

  • Cotton pads
  • Plexiglass (scraping, carving or milling the surface of the plexiglass will change the reflections)
  • Ping pong ball
  • Straw
  • Polymorph (thermal hobby plastic which melts in 60°C)
  • Hot glue
  • Tin foil
  • Colored glass
  • Colored plastics
  • 3D printed custom shader
  • Hair gel (Make sure the LED is insulated from the actual gel with for example transparent plastic!)
  • Thin paper (make holes, an origami, combine with other materials and items...)
  • Popcorn, marshmallows, cotton candy
  • Cellophane - colored, clear, crumpled
  • Strong shadow: LED behind a non-transparent shape
  • Cocktail parasol
  • Transparent dice (drill a hole!)
  • Packing foam
  • CD’s
  • Bandy balls

Put the LED into a new context: 

  • Perler bead art (also known as Hama beads): leave holes into the artwork for LEDs
  • Cardboard structures
  • Replace the eyes of a plush toy with LEDs
  • Dollhouse lighting
  • Origami

Use LEDs from other devices:

  • Salvaged LEDs from discarded christmas lights
  • LEDs from toys