Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Hardware Hacking Toys Hardware Build Science Technology

Playdough For Fun and Profit 70

Posted by timothy
from the not-the-trademarked-version dept.
morgan_greywolf writes with this snippet from Wired:"You're never too young (or too old) to start learning the joys of electronics. You don't need to know how to solder, or even how to plug circuit components into a breadboard. As long as you're past the 'I'm going to stick this up my nose' phase, this homemade playdough circuit project is a great way to introduce kiddos and adults alike to basic circuits and electricity."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Playdough For Fun and Profit

Comments Filter:
  • yeah (Score:2, Interesting)

    by buanzo (542591)
    useful, cool, geeky and pro-learning and DIY. great.
    • We MUST put a halt to this immediately. We can't have children messing about with this kind of thing.

      Hell, terrorists might even try to build the electronics for a bomb using this in the middle of a flight, because the TSA still lets you have playdough. Combining this with the C4 they have stuffed inside body cavities, it's like manna from heaven.

      • Re:yeah (Score:4, Interesting)

        by mcgrew (92797) * on Sunday July 10, 2011 @07:51AM (#36710398) Homepage Journal

        I'm surprised they let you have paydough on planes.

        What would be better than powering the circuit with batteries would be to make the batteries, too. You can make a battery from a lemon, a galvanized roofing nail, and a piece of thick copper wire. Not sure if it would power an LED (Although I'm pretty sure it would) but I suppose you could have a six (or more) lemon battery. A single lemon will power an LCD calculator, I did that with my kids when they were little. You can get around a volt from a lemon, not sure how many milliamps. And I don't remember if the copper side or the zinc side was positive; the kids are grown now and it was a long time ago.

        The LED is good for demonstrating the workings of a diode, since it is a diode and lights up. A red/green diode is great for that, one of the ones that light red with one polarity, green with the opposite polarity, and yellow with AC.

        Seems you could make a playdough capacitor, too. You could conceivably make playdough resistors by mixing the conductive and nonconductive doughs. I wish I'd known the conductive properties of playdough when my kids were little. Maybe if one of them makes me a grandpa...

      • by Hadlock (143607)

        I'm imagining a 3 year old filling the holes on an electric socket with the blue (conductive) playdoh. ZAP.

        • by Abstrackt (609015)

          That, and learning how hard playdough is to remove from carpet, is why you always make your kids play with it at the table.

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      Uhhhh...while it is a cool little thing, although how many things you'll be able to make with a playdough circuit is debatable....don't they still make those little cheap "X in One" kids hobby kits anymore?

      When I was a kid all the little geeky kids (like me) had these little "X in One" like 24 in One, 40 in One, etc little electronic kits that let you make really cool stuff, like a radio, a little LED counter, I think the bigger ones even let you make a walkie talkie. And just about any kid 7 and up could u

      • by artor3 (1344997)

        I think the idea here is to use it with very young kids, maybe down to three years old. Save the breadboarding until they're old enough to use wirecutters without removing an earlobe. It's like training wheels or tee ball. Obviously inferior to the real thing, but an accessible start. Little kids are used to playing with playdough. If you can sneak in some learning, all the better.

        • Who said anything about breadboarding? If the things GP's referring to are like the one I had, the components are on little mounts that bolt into place on a precut predrilled PCB.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Everyone knows that !!

  • My son (7) has been playing around all day with parts from a gutted (hacked) Hess truck. Play dough electrical connectors are just perfect for him now! Thanks, OP.
  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @07:13PM (#36707948)

    Now this is some that if left in the open will look alot more bomb / C4 like then the Aqua Teen Hunger Force ad's.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      As long as you're past the 'I'm going to stick this up my nose' phase

      It's narrow minded people like you that hold back scientific progress, the smelloscope is a fantastic invention.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Mix in a little saltpeter and you do have an incendiary device. Saltpeter mixed with sugar will burn through a concrete block once lit.

      Power it with enough lemons and it won't even look like a bomb, although a saltpeter bomb has to be under pressure (pipe bomb).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I used to rip apart all toys and wire up motors, blinken lights and stuff using clay. (I used clay to keep the connections in place)

  • If you like this, you may enjoy the TED talk video about it: http://www.ted.com/talks/annmarie_thomas_squishy_circuits.html [ted.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Needs P and N type dough!

  • They're cheap, don't make a mess, don't dry out, and probably conduct better too.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      yeah, but because of the decline in alligator population, the clips are becoming rare. plus PETA kept picketing Radio Shacks

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Also they make great roach clips. Playing with kids and simple electronics is even more fun when you're stoned!

      Alligator clips have a multitude of uses, most of which have nothing to do with electronics.

  • My niece is turning four soon, anybody think that is too young for this? She does love play dough.
    • Re:4 year old? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by carlzum (832868) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @08:17PM (#36708298)
      Not at all. I started doing kitchen experiments with my daughter when she was 3. Once she gets how one conducts and the other doesn't, she'll be able to try different combinations and see how the current moves, degrades, etc. She may not learn the technology, but a four year old's ability to learn through experience is incredible. Don't forget, she learned English in less than two years using observation alone.
      • by carlzum (832868)

        Not at all. I started doing kitchen experiments with my daughter when she was 3. Once she gets how one conducts and the other doesn't, she'll be able to try different combinations and see how the current moves, degrades, etc. She may not learn the technology, but a four year old's ability to learn through experience is incredible. Don't forget, she learned English in less than two years using observation alone.

        oops... I meant to say, she may not learn the terminology

    • by drolli (522659)

      I think my father made me some LEGO bricks with LEDs and lamps when i was four and i remember that i was very fascinated by the fact that some devices which have a polarity, and some don't. I for sure expressed that in another way, but testing how to attach the red/black wires to batteries to make the LEDs shine kept me busy and quiet for some time. And my development was completely average.

      My theory is: give children many kinds of toys. You will figure out if its to early if they don't play with it.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      It depends on the kid. My oldest would have been five before she would grasp it (she's learning disabled), my youngest could have handled it at two (she's gifted).

    • by Abstrackt (609015)

      Kids are all so different that it's hard for anyone but you (and her parents of course!) to answer that question. I say just give it a shot under extra-close supervision and see what happens, you can always put it away if you think she's not ready.

  • by Tehrasha (624164) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @08:13PM (#36708276) Homepage
    ..breadboarding, with bread dough. When I first saw the pics, I thought they had found a way to simulate semi-conductor doping with the different colored dough.
    • actually given the way a diode is made you MIGHT be able to actually do a diode by making dough with a varied mix of salt/tartar
      along the length of your dough

      • by artor3 (1344997)

        I don't see how. There are only three ways I know of to make a diode. You can use semiconductors, quantum tunneling, or the old vacuum tube method. I can't see how varying the resistivity of the dough could replicate any of those.

        What you could do is make a moderately resistive dough, and create a potentiometer. Battery+ -> wire -> dough -> LED -> Battery-. Roll the dough into a thin strand, and the light gets dim. Clump it into a big ball, and the light gets bright. Bonus points if you e

        • by Tehrasha (624164)
          There are only three ways I know of to make a diode. You can use semiconductors, quantum tunneling, or the old vacuum tube method.

          Which of these three do Selenium rectifiers [wikipedia.org] fall under?

          • by artor3 (1344997)

            Under the "ways I do not know of" heading. However, wikipedia says they're an early type of semiconductor diode, so I'll go with that.

        • lemme correct things before my semi conductor teacher whacks me upside the head

          you would actually make a nonconductive dough and then mix in gallium or antimony depending on which type you need (i think those are the least toxic of the possible options) so a "proper" diode would have gallium on one end and antimony on the other end

          you could maybe get a sort of bipolar junction transistor by making a blob with Npn sections but this would just about be stone knifes and bearskins level of operation.

  • Yet inconceivable... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by retroworks (652802)
    That an Egyptian can fix a bad joint on a laptop. Americans are going to be banned from selling laptops with loose power adapters (the number one cause of failure of several Dell and Lenovo and other models) under legislation introduced by Green-Thompson "ewaste". Only "tested working" electronics can be resold. Vermont now bans sale between Vermonters without a hazardous waste permit. We know the issue is the adapter plug (people carry the laptop around with the plug inserted, and it breaks the solde
  • Oh great. Just wait till the TSA hears about THAT....

  • Kirkchoff's law fail (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zinho (17895) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @11:39PM (#36708970) Journal

    It makes me sad to read the following snippet from the article:

    Chain multiple LEDs through the conductive dough, and you’ll notice the ones at the end are far dimmer than the first few. That’s because less current is making its way down the series; the current only has one path, and that’s through each LED.

    Now a bunch of kids are going to go through life thinking that current gets used up as it goes through the circuit. The same current will be flowing through every component of the circuit; it's only got one path, after all.

    Don't get me wrong, I love this article and I'm probably going to try this with my kids, too. It's just that I'm going to teach them Kirchoff's laws [wikipedia.org] while I'm at it.

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      The article is a wiki, so you can fix it. I'd do it myself, but I haven't actually made the playdough (yet!) and I want to see for myself if the LEDs further along in the circuit don't shine as bright. My gut says that the current author didn't actually try it and was just writing what he expected to happen, since I can't think of any reason for it to be true, but it wouldn't be the first time a circuit has surprised me.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        No, LEDs are only full brightness or off. To make an LED dim you pulse the current through it. It isn't actually dimmer, it just looks dimmer because it's turning on and off faster than you can see.

        • by Clueless Moron (548336) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @10:14AM (#36711124)

          No, LEDs are only full brightness or off. To make an LED dim you pulse the current through it. It isn't actually dimmer, it just looks dimmer because it's turning on and off faster than you can see.

          Nonsense. You can make an LED anything from barely lit to full tilt by nothing more than controlling the current via the loading resistor. Try it yourself.

        • When I unplug the power supply for my netbook, the LED decays quickly, but not instantaneously.

          Which is more likely?

          a) A capacitor that's there for some other reason (smoothing?) is discharging. I know they are they, I've been zapped by one.

          b) The manufacturer went to the time, effort and expense to add pulsing circuitry that 99.99% of people won't even notice the effect of.

          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            I'd say a). Big caps can hold a charge for a while. Most people don't realize you can be fatally electrocuted by a CRT TV that isn't even plugged it if you put your fingers in the wrong place.

      • It's part of a Wiki, but you can't edit it (though it says you can). If you try, you get "The action you have requested is limited to users in one of the groups trusted, Sysops." You even get that on the discussion page for that article.
    • by ipwndk (1898300)
      But the dough probably have some resistance?
      • Yes, it does. And that will determine how bright _all_ the LEDs are. But the LEDs are all getting the same current because they're in series: All of the current goes through one, then the next, then the next. Each gets no more or less current than the others. So, if they're all the same type of LED, they'll all be the same brightness. The Wired article even got this partly right: "Chain multiple LEDs through the conductive dough, and you’ll notice the ones at the end are far dimmer than the firs
    • Well, current could be "used up" as it goes through the circuit... Given that the playdough has a large surface area to the table (making the table an imperfect ground), it would probably be making a ladder circuit between the diodes, causing partial shorts which would explain the fading brightness of the LED's down the chain.
  • Can't make a zero-resistance connection; this is going to constrain things quite a bit. But as a stepping stone to get kids interested, it's great!

    My introduction to electronics back in the day was a Radio Shack "65-In-One" electronics project kit. Bunch of discrete components, meter, speaker, photocell, electromagnetic relay, etc. with spring clips that allowed for easy interconnection. It's sad that this sort of thing is no longer widely available.

  • How is it better/easier to use/more educational than a breadboard?

    • Because it's a lot easier for a kid to stick a wire into a lump of dough than to stick it into the right hole in a breadboard.

"One Architecture, One OS" also translates as "One Egg, One Basket".

Working...