Illumineer Outreach: Lighting Electronics

Subtopic: LED Basics


Stickie componentsExtreme LED Throwies

Essential Questions

  1. What is a light emitting diode (LED) and what can we make if we combine it with a battery and a magnet?
  2. How can we identify batteries and connect them with an LED to form a electrical circuit?

Learning Objectives

  1. Students will be able to recognize a battery of a size and shape they may have not seen before (i.e. a coin battery) from its function and markings.
  2. Students will be able to recognize an LED in a standard T1 package (see picture) and, if clear, identify the LED die in the package.
  3. Students will be able to build a complete circuit by connecting an LED to a coin battery, securing the connection with tape.
  4. Students will be able to build a stickie by taping a magnet to the LED/battery circuit and identify the parts of the circuit that are magnetic
  5. Students will be able to find an item in the room where they have made their stickie that is sufficiently magnetic to permit the stickie to reliably attach to it.


These materials have been prepared for use by K-5 students, definitely grades 4-5, possibly also grade 3. Typical math and science standards for these grades follow. This information is provided to help activity mentors better understand their audience.

K- count by 1's to 100, write numbers 1-20, understand addition as adding something, subtraction as taking away, identify and name shapes.
1- Add and subtract using numbers from 1-20, solve word problems using addition and subtraction, compare two digit numbers using greater than or less than symbols, tell time in hours, order objects by length, properties of shapes.
2- Add and subtract 4 digit numbers, skip count by 5's 10's and 100's, explain why addition and subtraction is correct or false, estimate the length of an object, measure the length of an object in standard units, draw a picture of a bar graph with single unit scale, partition shapes into equal sections. In science, they address color of objects.
3- Use multiplication and division to solve problems, solve two step word problems, understand a fraction as a number on a number line (denominators of 2, 3, 4, 6, 8), explain equivalent fractions. In science, they introduce color and lighting.
4- Multiply numbers up to 4 digits, find whole number quotients with remainders, comparing fractions, explaining why fractions are equivalent, use decimal notation of fractions, use four operations to solve word problems. In science, students learn about the scientific method, forms of energy, electrical circuits, how energy and matter interact.
5-Use parenthesis; write simple expressions; add, subtract, multiply and divide decimals to the hundredths, add and subtract fractions, understand fractions as division, solve problems involving multiplication of fractions and mixed numbers. In math, students learn mean, median, mode, range, maximum, and minimum. In science, they also address the scientific method and review forms of energy.


Battery Connections

It is assumed that students know what a battery is, but may not know all of the forms they come in, especially coin batteries. It is assumed that students know what an electrical circuit is and know it must be closed. It is assumed that students know that light bulbs require electricity to work and that they must be part of a closed circuit. It is assumed that students know what a magnet is and that they are attracted to some metals, but not most materials.

Useful, but not required background: Students should have some knowledge of forms of energy, especially electrical, mechanical, heat, light. They should know that light comes in different colors (the colors of the rainbow) and that colors can be mixed to make other colors. Some students may know that blue light is higher energy than red light.


Most of the references below include excellent instructions (with video) for how to make a stickie. They are called throwies, which is a name that is OK for older children, but it seems to keep things calmer if we call them stickies and encourage elementary school students to stick them to things and not throw them. Of course, throwing is also fun. If you use LEDs in a variety of colors, you can add the following activity - before taping anything together, connect two LEDs to the battery, preferably using colors from the opposite ends of the visible light spectrum (e.g. red-green or red-blue) and observe that the higher energy LED (green or blue) will either not light at all or will be very dim because the lower energy LED (red) is easier to turn on. You can also discuss the different forms of energy involved in this experiment: 1) Chemical in the battery; 2) Electrical in the circuit; 3) Radiant or Light (actually electromagnetic); 4) Mechanical (when the magnet attaches itself); 5) Thermal or Heat (nothing really gets hot here, but you can point out that incandescent bulbs do get warm as do electronic power supplies for LEDs).

Visible Light SpectrumForms of Energy

Bill of Materials

The figure above shows the materials used: 1) CR2032 3V Lithium battery; 2) Any LED in a 3-10mm T1 package (the usual dome shape), but clear LEDs are better because the color is better and it is easier to understand that the light comes from the LED and not the color of the plastic dome; 3) 1/2" diameter NdFeB magnet, 1/8" thick disk; 4) tape.



CR2032 Batteries

EIA - Forms of Energy

Math and Science K-12 Standards for all US states.

Contact Information

This material prepared and/or reviewed by: K. Connor, J. Morton, J. Connor, A. Kline

Please send any feedback on the content or structure of this webpage to connor at rpi dot edu

Information on our Engineering Research Center: Smart Lighting ERC & Education & Outreach

Revised: 7 April, 2013