Welcome back to Farbulous Creations! This is Mason, my cousin’s oldest son. He’s only 7 years old but has increasingly shown signs of intellectual curiosity over the past few years. My cousin and her husband do a great job of encouraging that in him, and I definitely want to as well.
One of the things he’s recently shown interest in is two things I was also obsessed with as a kid: crafts (anything involving a hot glue gun) and electricity. Since I was obsessed with that stuff too, I knew just the type of project I could do with him the next time we made the four hour trip back to my hometown.
The project is called a quiz board and I found it in an electronics book for kids when I was in the 6th grade. The concept is pretty simple, but a little hard to explain. I’ll do my best as we jump in here with some crude motion graphics.
You start with a thin board (we used a marker board) and mount metallic contacts on the left and right sides of the board and connect them together randomly on the back. Using a simple light bulb and battery pack circuit, the two sides of the board essentially become a question and answer side. When you get an answer correct by touching two pins to the corresponding question and answer, the circuit is completed via the wires on the back and the bulb lights up. It’s not magic, it’s science!
Before heading home to work on this with him, I decided to use a local maker space laser I have access to to laser etch the marker board we would be using to make it a little more personal. To do that I first had to come up with a design. I started by creating an artboard in Illustrator the same width and height as my marker board, and then started adding a title and instructions to the board. This evolved quite a bit as the design progressed and I was never really quite happy with the title until I was nearly done when the perfect title popped in my head. You’ll see that shortly.
After the title, I laid out numbers and letters on opposing sides of the board to serve as the “questions” and “answers” for the quiz aspect of it. I didn’t realize it until I was completely done lasering the board, but I completely forgot to cut holes for the bolts we would use as terminals, so I had to very carefully drill and space those with a hand drill once I got back from using the maker space’s laser cutter.
The last step was designing a little area for the light bulb to go. I sized the hole to correspond with the size of some mini bulbs I bought on Amazon for this project.
And finally, just in the nick of time before lasering, the perfect title for the top of the board came to me.
Then it was time for everyone’s favorite part: the laser cutting itself! I broke my file into a few separate jobs to save the laser time by not having to travel over a lot of open space. Had I done these all at once, the laser would have to travel that large gap of white between the questions and answer side for every single horizontal pass, back and forth, resulting in a longer etching time.
After etching the marker board, a wet paper towel was all that was needed to clean up the residue left from etching.
So with the design process out of the way, let me introduce you to Mason the Mastermind!
I briefly explained the project we were going to be working on and his eyes may have glazed over, just a little bit. I assured him it would make sense as we went along.
One of my favorite clips from the whole project. He’s pretty proud of having his own hot glue gun, and I told him we would be using it on this build. He quickly scurried to the kitchen drawer to fetch it.
Once Mason’s hot glue gun was heated up, we used it to glue the mini light bulb holder to the back of the board.
Next we put all the flat head screws and nuts together through the board and left these slightly loose so that we could come back and wrap the wire around the screw threads before tightening the bolts down.
For the wires, we would cut a random length of wire and then I’d have Mason pick which two terminals the wire would terminate at. Tightening the wires down ended up being a slightly tedious part of the project because the screws I ended up selecting at the hardware store were tough to tighten by hand so I had to use the pliers tip of the wire strippers as a wrench and a flat head screwdriver to tighten each one.
Balancing the board while doing this was a little awkward. (Sorry for the poorly placed water bottle.)
We completed this project over the course of two days, hence the wardrobe change. The second day we resumed the project by gluing the battery pack down on the back of the board. Mason likes being generous with the hot glue, so the good news is that battery pack isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
After that, we cut longer wires to serve as the terminal wires for the quiz taker to use when trying their luck at the questions and answers. We attached nails to the end of these wires by wrapping the wire around the end of the nail and then taping it in place with electrical tape. This way there was something more to hold onto when connecting the questions to the answers.
One of my favorite parts of doing this project with Mason, was him, without any prompting, occasionally trying to guess the next step as we went along. That assured me that not only was he interested in what we were doing, but that it was all making sense to him, even if I hadn’t explained everything yet.
After our final wire connections were made, we needed to make a written answer key based on how the wires were connected on the back. That way, when creating a quiz, we could know which number on the left needed to be with which letter on the right. This involved looking at the back to see where the wires were hooked up and then verifying it by connecting the probes.
With all of the wire stripping, gluing and connecting of wires complete, we could finally craft our first quiz. Mason is a big fan of something else I was obsessed with in middle school, the solar system, so we made his first quiz about bodies in the solar system. After testing it ourselves to make sure we had everything labeled correctly, we had his mom, my cousin Lisa, take the quiz.
Unfortunately, Mason has already quizzed Lisa about the solar system verbally (while in the car, for example) over the past few years so she knew most of the answers already.
But we were still able to trick her on a few of them, and Mason was really excited when she got one wrong. I told him not to fret that she got so many right though because it meant he was clearly a good teacher.
When all was said and done I had one more surprise in store for Mason. I had found a kit that had all sorts of DC motors, propellers, gears, wheels and the like for him to experiment with and make his own projects. I saved this for the end so he didn’t lose interest in our project before it was done, because let’s face it, I probably would have too in his shoes.
Well that’s it for this “build!” I know it was a bit of different build writeup, and I’m sorry I didn’t have more close up photos of our process, but I hope you enjoyed it nonetheless.
If you have a little one in your life who’s hungry to learn about science and electricity, this is a fun one to do with them to help encourage them to stay curious. Nurture the heck out of that!
And, if you’d like to check out other laser crafted projects of mine, be sure to check out my YouTube channel. If you like what I do, I sure would appreciate if you subscribed and followed along.
Thanks for your consideration, and until next time, cheers!