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AnnMarie Thomas
mom, teacher, maker
mom, teacher, maker


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My "Making Makers" talk from last fall's TEDxTC has been posted. In it, I had the honor of telling stories about +Raquel Velez +Bradley Gawthrop +Lenore Edman  and +Steve Hoefer  and Paul McGill. TEDxTC - AnnMarie Thomas - Making Makers
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Love this! (I can still remember my parents bringing me out with them and their friends when I was about 5, and giving me unlimited quarters at the pinball machine in the corner.)
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Tonight I read "the dot," by Peter Reynolds ( , to my daughter. The story and illustrations are wonderful, but what really struck me tonight was this paragraph on the book jacket:

"'I often visit classrooms and ask who loves to draw," [Peter H. Reynolds] says. 'In kindergarten and first grade, all the hands go up. By fourth and fifth grade, most of the hands are down, or perhaps pointing to 'the class artist.' It's sad to see kids' creative energy slowing down, being packed away. I am convinced it's because they learn early that there are 'rules' to follow. But when it comes to expressing yourself, you can change the rules, stretch them, or ignore them and dive headfirst into the unknown.'"
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Hello #MakerCamp campers! Today we are making Squishy Circuits. This is a circuit building project in which prototyping boards and wires are replaced with play dough. This means that you can sculpt your circuits!

First, here are the things you’ll want to gather for the project.
Tools and Supplies:
• Safety Glasses
• Soldering Iron (optional)
• Crimping tool (optional)
• Stove or hot plate
• 4 AA Battery Pack (batteries not included)
• fork or spade terminals (2x) (recommended)
• AA Batteries (4x)
• LEDs, assorted
• (optional) piezoelectic or mechanical buzzer (We list some herethat we've used before for this project)
• (optional) motor with a very low current draw (~30mA) rated for about 5 volts ( We list some here that we've used before for this project)

For The Conductive Dough (store bought):
• Play Doh (This is the easiest thing to use, though it doesn't conduct quite as well as the dough below)

For homemade conductive dough:
• Water
• Flour (1 1/2 cups)
• 1/4 cup Salt
• 3 Tbsp. Cream of tartar (can be replaced with 9 Tbsp of lemon juice)
• 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
• (optional) Food coloring
For the Insulating Dough:
• Flour (1 1/2 cups)
• Sugar (1/2 cup)
• Vegetable oil (3 Tbsp)
• Distilled water or deionized water; check lab supply stores or grocery stores (1/2 cup)

Now the fun part! Let’s make some play dough, and some circuits.  If you want to try this project out quickly, you can use regular commercial Play Doh. If you have a bit more time, I recommend making your own homemade super-salty play dough, which conducts better than most commercial Play Doh. 

Here are instructions for making the conductive dough:  
Here are instructions for making the insulating dough:

Once you have conductive and insulating dough, you can start building circuits.

For your first circuit (shown in the picture in this post), attach a lump of conductive dough to each of the wires coming out of your battery pack. Then use an LED to connect the two lumps. Flip on your battery pack. If the LED doesn’t light up, flip it around, switching which “leg” goes into which lump of dough. 
Safety Note: Never connect the LED directly to the battery pack. That could cause too much current to flow through the LED, which may lead to the LED burning out or popping. Wearing safety glasses is a good idea.

Now we can start making more complicated circuits! Here are some ideas for to get you started: 
One of my maker heroes, Super Awesome Sylvia, made a great video on how to build Squishy Circuits, and how they work:

For a quick intro to Squishy Circuits, here’s a short talk I gave on the project and its history is here: (You may note that the recipe in this talk is a bit different than the one we’re using here.) Back when we first created the recipes, we used alum in the insulating dough. It helps preserve the dough. Unfortunately, it turns out that alum is hard to find in many grocery stores, so we took it out of the recipe.)

I’ll be hosting a Hangout today at noon PST to talk more about Squishy Circuits. Matthew Schmidtbauer, a student who has developed some fun projects for Arduino + Squishy Circuits, will be joining me. Be sure to share photos of your own Squishy Circuits using the #MakerCamp hashtag.
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