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TechSaber Instructions

  • by Rebekah Nelson on March 15, 2014
    Over the course of our TechSaber workshop I have heard countless guests ask how to re-create this experience at home. You asked, and we listened. I am happy to present the much anticipated guide for creating a TechSaber at home! Feel free to explore different configurations as well as different materials as you delve into the science and fun of paper circuits.

    These instructions are primarily intended to be used with the Hands on Science Workshop’s TechSaber kits, but there is no reason that you can’t find or improvise the materials shown. 

    Materials Included:

    cardboard tube
    8” length foil tape
    1 oz plastic portion cup
    plastic prize lid
    11 x 4” clear plastic sheet
    reflective paper round
    3” red wire
    3” black wire
    Super Bright LED bulb
    small binder clip
    3V Battery
    2 small paper clips
    paper circuit diagram

    Tools and Materials Required:

    needle nose pliers
    Exacto knife
    hot glue gun
    glue sticks
    clear plastic tape

    Optional Tools and Materials:

    soldering iron
    soldering wire
    soldering clamp
    wire strippers
    electrical tape <<strongly recommended
    cutting mat

    Making the Blade-

    1. Plug in your glue gun, we’ll be using it in the next step. While the glue gun is warming we’ll start building the LED housing component. Using the Exacto knife, carefully cut a small opening into the bottom of the 1 oz portion cup. Then cut a small opening into the top of the plastic prize cup.

    2. Place the prize lid into the portion cup; make sure that your holes line up. If they don’t widen the holes a bit until they aline. When they line up, use the hot glue to glue the lid in.

    3. Take the reflective paper and roll it into a cone, secure with tape.

    4. Pick up your LED light, notice that one wire is longer than the other? That’s to tell you which wire is which. The longer wire is the positive side. If you ever forget which end is which, use your battery to test. Using your pliers bend the ends of the wires up. 

    5. Using either your scissors, pliers, or wire stripper, strip ½” of plastic off of the ends of the wires.

    6. Using your pliers (or just your fingers) wrap the red wire around the bent end of the positive LED wire. Double check using your battery so you wrap the correct side. Try to wrap as neatly and tightly as possible- this will give you a better connection. Use the pliers to crimp the bent end and the wires together. Test with your battery to see if your connection is strong. Now wrap and crimp the black wire onto the negative side. At this point you can solder your connections if you would like to.

    7. Slip the LED into the reflective cone. Using the electrical tape, tape your connections. Make sure the two exposed wires can’t touch- otherwise your Tech Saber would short out.  Also make sure that your wires can still fit through the holes in the cup. 

    8. Slide the wires through the holes in the plastic cup. Use a small dot of hot glue to secure the cone onto the plastic prize cup. You can also glue the taped wires onto the bottom of the cup to make it even more stable. 

    9. Wrap the bottom of the wires around the paper clips. Be sure to wrap the smaller end, so that you’ll be able to clip your blade onto your circuit board later. Crimp the wires on with your pliers. If you are soldering, do so now. If not, wrap your connections in electrical tape.

    10. Roll the clear plastic sheet into a tube. Use the LED cup to make sure your tube is the right size. Secure with the clear tape. 

    11. Hot glue the clear tube into the LED cup. You can unplug the glue gun now. 

    Making the Circuit Board-

    1. Cut the foil tape into ¼” strips.

    2. Cut out the circuit board diagram
    3. Using the foil tape strips, trace the gray lines. (Warning: the backing of the foil tape can be tricky to peel off. Try folding down a corner to get it started.) When you come to a corner fold the foil tape, do not cut and begin with another piece. The sticky adhesive on the back of the foil tape is an insulator- meaning it will not conduct electricity. Your folds do not have to be perfect, it is perfectly fine if they are a bit crunched, just make sure the foil tape does not tear.

    4. Fold your circuit board along the dotted lines, except for the line on the switch end. The large fold line is folded over the circuit; the small tab at the top gets folded behind. Crease your folds.

    5. Open up the large fold. Next take your battery and place it positive side down onto the circle with the plus sign next to it. The rough side of the battery will be facing up. Fold the flap back over the battery. Use the binder clip to clamp the battery into place (place clip over the paper).

    6. Take your blade and slide the paper clips onto the top of your circuit. The red wire goes onto the positive side and the black goes onto the negative. Make sure the clips are on top of the foil tape.  Test your saber by using a bit of foil tape to complete the circuit.


    Assembling and Building Your Switch-
    1.  Loosely roll your circuit board. Then slide the circuit into your cardboard tube. The plastic cup will fit snuggly into the top and the switch end will stick out the bottom.

    2. Now for the fun part! You get to decide how you want your saber to turn on and off. All you have to do to create your switch is to connect the two ends of foil tape with something strongly conductive. Materials you can use include: more foil tape, binder clips, paper clips, most metal things you can think of… Once you pick your switch material, you need to decide how you want your switch to function. Do you want it to work like a push button? A light switch? A slider? A knob? Do you want to complete the switch by using something connected to the cardboard tube? Or maybe you want to use something on your hand?
    3. Depending on how you want to make your switch, fold the end back onto the tube with the foil tape facing either out or the tube. To make a simple push button switch, fold so the foil tape faces the tube. Then stick a small piece of foil tape onto the tube under the circuit. Tape the circuit into place. When you push on the connection your saber will turn on! Feel free to explore multiple switch configurations! 

    Speaking of multiple configurations, here at the Tech Museum of Innovation we are all about iteration and growth through innovation. Case in point: the activity you just completed was the way we originally fabricated our blades for use in our Hands On Science Workshop. While this way to build the blades works really well, it didn’t have as long a shelf life as we’d like. So we decided to utilize our 3D printers to fabricate a new LED housing components!  If you have access to a 3D printer, try printing your own part!

    Rebekah Nelson is the Programs Development Lead at The Tech Museum of Innovation