skip to Main Content

squishy circuits

Squishy circuits are a fun way to learn and explore the basics of electricity and electrical circuits.

By using conductive and insulating dough, you can create sculptures with embedded lights, motors and buzzers.  This project is great for younger students because it utilizes a material they already know…PlayDoh.

The concept of squishy circuits was developed by Dr. AnnMarie Thomas while at the University of St. Thomas.

Materials Needed

In order to create squishy circuits, you will need the following:

Make Conductive Dough

The first step in this project is to create the electrically conductive dough.  This material has a high salt and water concentration which allows it to conduct an electrical current.

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup (237 mL) Flour
  • 1 Cup (237 mL) Water
  • 1/4 Cup (59 mL) Salt
  • 9 Tbsp (133 mL) Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) Vegetable Oil
  • Food Coloring

squishy circuits conductive dough recipe

Step 1:

Mix 1 cup water, 1 cup of flour, 1/4 cup of salt, 9 Tbsp of lemon juice, 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil and food coloring in a medium sized non-stick saucepan.

squishy circuits conductive dough recipe

Step 2:

Place saucepan over medium heat and stir continuously until the mixture thickens.

squishy circuits conductive dough recipe

Step 3:

Continue stirring over heat until the mixture forms a ball.

squishy circuits conductive dough recipe

Step 4:

Place the ball on a lightly floured cookie sheet or counter top.

CAUTION– The ball will be warm for a few minutes. It’s recommended that you flatten the ball and let it cool before proceeding.

squishy circuits conductive dough recipe

Step 5:

Slowly knead 1/2 cup of flour into the ball or until it is no longer sticky to the touch.

squishy circuits conductive dough recipe

Optional

Instead of creating conductive dough from scratch, you can also buy commercially sold Play-Doh which has similar conductive properties.

squishy circuits play doh

Make Insulating Dough

Now it’s time to create the non-conductive or insulating dough for your squishy circuits.  This dough will help resist electricity from flowing through it.

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup (237 mL) Flour
  • 1/2 Cup (118 mL) Sugar
  • 3 Tbsp (44 mL) Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 Cup (118 mL) Purified Water (Deionized)
  • Food coloring (optional)

squishy circuits insulating dough recipe

Step 1:

Mix 1 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, 3 Tbsp of vegetable oil in a mixing bowl.  Stir until all oil is absorbed.

squishy circuits insulating dough recipe

Step 2:

Pour small amounts of the purified water into the mixture and stir until water is absorbed.  Repeat this until ball forms.

squishy circuits insulating dough recipe

Step 3:

Place the ball on a lightly floured cookie sheet or counter top.  Knead small amounts of flour into the ball until it is no longer sticky.

squishy circuits insulating dough recipe

squishy circuits insulating dough recipe

Optional

If you are not able to create insulating dough from scratch, you can buy modeling clay from most craft stores.

Storage

You can keep both the conductive and insulating dough in a sealed container or bag for up to a week.  If the oil separates while in storage, add flour to remove the stickiness.

squishy circuits storage

Make a Squishy Circuit

Now it’s time to put your conductive and insulating dough together to form a squishy circuit.

Step 1:

Take some conductive dough and form it into 2 separate rolls.  Connect the red (+) wire from the battery to one roll and the black (-) wire to the other.

squishy circuits

Step 2:

Take (1) LED and insert the long leg (+) into the roll that is connected to the red wire.  Insert the other LED leg into the opposite roll and then turn on your battery pack.  At this point, you have created a circuit and the LED should light.

squishy circuits

Step 3:

Now we’re going to create a short circuit by pushing the dough together.  Electrical current flows in a circle and takes the path of least resistance.  It’s easier for the electricity to flow through the dough versus the LED.  When the two rolls are pushed together, the current bypasses the LED creating a short circuit.

squishy circuits

Step 4:

In order to prevent short circuits as outlined above, we need an insulator between the conductive dough.  Take some of your insulating dough and place it between the two pieces of conductive dough.

squishy circuits

CAUTION – If your battery pack has a switch, make sure to turn it off when you are done with your experiments.

Add Motors, Buzzers and More

In addition to lighting an LED, you could power a DC motor or a buzzer in the same way.  The below projects are from squishycircuits.com and they show what can be created with conductive and insulating dough.

squishy circuits

Image Credit – SquishyCircuits.com

Makerspaces.com

Makerspaces.com was built to help schools and libraries start and run their own makerspaces. We truly believe that adding a makerspace to a school or library can help students acquire the skills needed for the 21st century.