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Ready for a cosmic adventure that combines science and technology?
This experiment puts science and technology into practice by working on the arrangement of the planets, talking about the solar system, and building simple circuits to illuminate our solar system. It’s a blend of two subjects with a creative twist!
This is easily one of my favorite experiments. I hope you enjoy it!
How to make the Light Up the Cosmos Solar System Circuit engineering experiment
Supplies you will need
For this experiment, you will need the following:
- Black construction paper
- Glue stick or tape
- Copper tape
- 5mm LEDs (9)
- Battery packs/holders for AA batteries (2)
- AA batteries (4)
- Plastic Easter eggs (9)
- Paint and paintbrushes
Before you start
Since you’re playing with small parts and electricity, please watch small children around this experiment.
Here is how to do this experiment with your child:
Step 1: Tape or glue the construction paper together to make a large rectangle
Using 4 sheets of black construction paper, tape or glue the edges together to make a large rectangle.
Step 2: Paint the eggs
This is a great opportunity to let your child exercise their creativity!
If you can, have an image of each planet available to your child so they can try to make the planets look similar to the real deal.
Step 3: Quick lesson in positive and negative charges in a circuit
Before we start building the circuit, it would be helpful to talk through positive and negative charges in a circuit, where they belong, and how to properly attach an LED to our circuit.
First up, your LED will have two legs attached, one of which is longer than the other. The longer leg of the LED is called the anode, and that is to be attached to the positively charged portion of our circuit.
The shorter leg, called the cathode, will be attached to the negatively charged portion of our circuit.
The color red is associated with a positive charge and black is associated with a negative charge. Your battery holder should have two wires sticking out, and the red and black are associated with positive and negative, respectively.
Now that that’s cleared up, let’s talk about our circuit!
I’ve drawn out the charges of the circuit in this handy drawing below, and I used red and black to show the positive and negative charges of the circuit, respectively.
The gaps that are surrounded by a small line and sprinkled around the circuit represent the LEDs, where the small, black line is the cathode and the small, red line is the anode.
The concentric circles will be the copper wire, which is conductive. That means it will allow the charge to course through it from the battery holder to the LEDs.
Finally, I left a line of gaps at the bottom of the paper.
Instead of individually powering each circle with its own battery holder, we are going to run another line of copper wire to connect each concentric circle, like this:
And finally, since we are using two battery holders to power this circuit, we need to join them somehow.
We’re going to join them in series, which basically means we’re allowing the same current to flow through both of them and it increases the total amount of voltage in our circuit (we want to make sure all of our LEDs are getting the power they need!).
In order to join our battery holders in series, we are going to connect the negative wire from one battery holder to the positive wire in the other battery holder, like this:
Okay, now that we have the technical portion out of the way, let’s build our circuit!
Step 4: Create the first circle of our circuit
First up, we want to split the LED legs so that we can easily access each leg separately. I chose to separate them perpendicular to the LED bulb itself.
For each LED we place, the anode will always be on the left and the cathode will always be on the right (refer to the drawing I made in the previous step).
Then, it’s time to start adding the copper tape.
We’re making concentric circles for our circuit, so try to keep it small for this first circle. Run copper tape from the anode and around in a half circle to the bottom, then cut the tape to do the same thing on the cathode.
Be sure to leave a gap like you see in the image!
Note that your circle doesn’t have to be perfect. Just look at mine; definitely not perfect!
If you want to test out your circuit, go ahead and use your battery holder to test it out.
Step 5: Create concentric circles (9 in total)
From here, we’re just going to repeat the process we did in step 4 until we have 9 concentric circles.
I’d recommend figuring out spacing for each of your LEDs here too. If you have two LEDs too close to one another, you may not have enough room to add your painted Easter eggs (planets).
You can see the spacing I chose in the images below.
Step 6: Run a line of copper tape down the positive and negative sides of each circle
We will have two lines of copper tape: one on the positive charge side (the left in my circuit) and one down the negative side (the right in my circuit).
The copper tape needs to be touching the end of each concentric circle, like in the images below.
These two lines of copper tape act in the same way as the concentric circles: they carry power from the battery holders to each LED (check out the last image to see a visual of the power flow).
Important tip: place the exposed wire of the positive and negative wires on the battery holder between two pieces of copper tape, essentially sandwiching the power wire in between the copper tape.
Step 7: Add planets and batteries, then power up!
All that’s left to do now is to place our planets (Easter eggs) on each LED bulb, add batteries to the battery holders, and light it up!
The technology behind the Light Up the Cosmos Solar System Circuit experiment
This experiment teaches:
- Planets of the solar system
- Simple circuits
- Creativity with painting
How it works
This solar system circuit experiment utilizes LEDs, copper tape, and painted plastic Easter eggs to create a tangible representation of the solar system. Each Easter egg is painted to resemble a planet and contains an LED light.
Copper tape is conductive, which allows power to flow freely from the battery holders to the individual LED lights. When we add the AA batteries to the battery holders, the circuit lights up.
Planets of the solar system
Children get hands-on experience with scientific concepts related to the solar system, including planet order. It’s a great way to visualize the planets orbiting around the sun, and the copper tape represents that individual planet’s orbit path.
Children gain a basic understanding of how a simple circuit works, with the copper tape acting as conductive pathways for the electric current to power the LEDs.
They also can start to understand how circuits have positive and negative power, and how circuits must be connected for the power to flow correctly and most efficiently.
Creativity with painting
Painting the Easter eggs allows children to express their creativity and artistic skills while representing the unique characteristics of each planet.
If you are able, try to have an image of each planet available to your child so they can paint the eggs as close to reality as possible.
More experiments about space to try out with your child
- Stringing the Solar System: See how far apart the planets are by stringing buttons on a string!
- Walking on the Moon: Create Moon sand and talk about our closest neighbor in the galaxy
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