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STEM Activity: Brighten Someone’s Day

STEM Activities

Celebrate National Card Making Day by making your very own light-up card for someone special!

Materials Needed

  • Cardstock or construction paper (two pieces per card)
  • Coin or AA battery
  • Drawing materials (crayons, markers, pencils)
  • LED or old set of holiday lights
  • Stickers or other art supplies
  • Tape (electrical or masking)


At-Home or In-School Instructions

1. Begin by folding two pieces of cardstock in half.

2. Create a design that would be enhanced by a small light on the front of the card (such as a cupcake with a candle that uses an LED for the flame).

3. Make a small hole in the card where you would like the light to poke through.

4. Ask an adult for an LED or a set of old holiday lights that can be cut.*

*To use holiday lights, have an adult help cut the wire on either side of one light bulb as close to the neighboring bulbs as possible, leaving a long length of wire attached on both ends of the light bulb you will be using.

Using scissors, strip the ends of the wire by removing the rubber casing and exposing the wire strands.

5. Place one exposed wire or pin from the LED on one side of a coin battery or AA battery, and place the other wire on the opposite side of the battery. The bulb should light up! If it does not, reverse the wires so they touch the opposite sides of the battery. Once lit, secure the wires to the battery using electrical or masking tape.

6. Poke the light through the image on the front of the card and secure it with tape.

7. Place the second piece of cardstock under the first to cover up the battery and LED wires.

8. Congratulations, you just made a circuit to light up someone’s day with a glowing card!


What Are We Discovering?

“Circuit” comes from the same root word as “circle” because of the way a circuit works. A wire, connected to a power source, makes contact with a device requiring power to function or operate. A second wire runs from the device back to the power source. These connections make a pathway, allowing electrons to flow through the “circle” of wires.

An electric circuit is a pathway through which electrons can flow. A power source, such as a battery, provides the voltage that triggers the flow of the electrons. When the electrons reach a device, they give it power. Often, there is a switch in a circuit pathway that, when turned off, creates a gap in the circuit, and the electrons are blocked from flowing. When the switch is turned on, the circuit is closed and the electricity can flow.

LEDs, or light emitting diodes, are very small, colored lights. A diode is an electrical component that has two prongs or terminals, positive and negative, which only conduct electricity in one direction. Using an electrical current powered by a source such as a battery, the diode emits a bright light around the miniature bulb.

National Inventors Hall of Fame® Inductee Nick Holonyak invented the first visible LEDs, which are now commonly found in applications ranging from traffic lights to consumer electronics. Holonyak’s research in optoelectronics has revolutionized the lighting, communications and entertainment industries. His work is responsible for the technology used to develop red lasers in CD and DVD players, the ability to transmit information over the internet and applications in replacing conventional lighting with LEDs.


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