Monday, August 31, 2015

Make your own Light up Shoes

Here's another good project for kids (or anyone, really) starting to learn about making with electricity. It's a good step up from the previous project I posted here, the Lightbulb Bauble. This project uses most of the same parts, but it's a step up in complexity, using parallel circuitry and a DIY pressure sensor to make the LEDs light up every time the wearer takes a step.

For this project, you'll need:
Lace-up Tennis Shoes
6 LED's with attached wires (or solder on your own)
An Index card
Aluminum Foil
Duct or Electrical Tape
1 Watch Battery
Index Card sized piece of Cardboard

The first step: if you have not yet attached wires to your LEDs, go ahead and do so. The wires should be about the distance from the eyelets closest to your toe on your shoes to your heel.

Next, you want to thread the ends of each LED through the eyelets of the shoe, and pull the wires toward the heel. Add as many as you like, though make sure that the shoe is still wearable.

To prepare the pressure sensor, fold your index card in half, and attach some foil to both sides of the inside.  Attach the wires from each LED to the foil - black (negative) to top, red (positive) to bottom. Then tape down the battery on one side so that when you close the index card, the foil only touches the battery. You may have to cover excess foil with tape. 

When the pressure sensor is closed, the circuit it completed, and the LEDs should light up!

To increase the durability of the design, fold a piece of cardboard in half, and glue your index card pressure sensor to the inside.

This is a great project to teach kids about parallel circuits. Ask them why a parallel circuit is necessary - what happens if the LEDs are wired in series? It also introduces the idea of an open/closed circuit. What other ways can a circuit be opened or closed? How do we use this in everyday life?
If you're interested in purchasing the materials to make this project, you can find my new store here. All proceeds go to supplying school STEM programs and Makerspaces with fun and educational resources. Have fun making!