Ever since my daughter brought home a light-up quiz board she made in 3rd grade, I’ve wanted to try one myself! This is something you can truly do at home – using wire or plain old aluminum foil as the conductive material, and, for the light-up element, an LED or single bulb from a string of holiday lights (you know how they always include extras in those little clear baggies – use them here). The only other things you need are some cardboard, a battery, masking tape and creative trivia questions! This is truly make-at-home, and with a big “success” factor.
1 light from a string of holiday lights and 1 or 2 C batteries, or… 1 LED and a lithium coin battery
1 piece of cardboard or foam core (approx 8×10 inches)
Roll of masking tape
Scissors and a hole punch
Roll of aluminum foil, OR about 3-feet of conductive wire
Pencils (to sketch in the questions first) and Sharpie marker (so they don’t smudge)
Handful of brads / paper fasteners or 2 paperclips (good to use but not critical)
6 challenging trivia questions or math equations
Time: 45 minutes to an hour
Ages: 10+ on their own, 7+ with grown-up help
1. First, jot down 6 challenging questions and their answers on a piece of scrap paper.
2. Then, prepare your board. Cut your cardboard or foam core to a rectangle about 8×10”. Punch 6 holes down each side (vertically). Pencil in the six questions – one next to each hole – down the left hand side of the board and the six answers down the right hand side. Make sure not to write the correct answers directly across from the questions – mix it up! Flip your board over. On the back side, draw lines from the holes with the questions to match them up to the holes with the correct answers.
4. Now, wire it! Start with a strip of aluminum foil that is about 12inches long, and as wide as the roll. Cut this into 6 strips about 2 inches wide, and fold each strip over on itself a few times (length-wise) so that you end up with 6 strips about a half-inch wide. These are your ‘wires.’ Insert a brad (paper fastener) into the front of each hole, and fold the legs over together on the back. Sandwich your first strip of aluminum foil between the two legs and tape down. Following the line you drew from the question to the correct answer, attach the other end of the aluminum strip to the brad with the corresponding answer. (If you do not have paper fasteners, that’s ok. Just make sure the aluminum foil shows through the hole on each side.) Cover the foil strip and brad entirely with masking tape. Repeat this for the other 5 connections, making sure to cover each one thoroughly with masking tape before moving on to the next.
5. Finally, create your “quiz wand.” You can do this in two ways, depending on what materials you have at hand.
If you are using 2 C batteries and a holiday light: Line up two batteries so that the positive terminal of one is touching the negative terminal of the other one. Wrap a rubber band around the two batteries the long way. Wrap a piece of tape around the batteries the short way where the ends of the batteries meet. The rubber bands will be on the inside of the tape. Cut two pieces of foil 1 inch by 10 inches. Fold both of them in half the long way. Connect one piece of foil to each terminal of the battery by sliding the foil under the rubber bands.
Take one free end of the aluminum foil (the other end is attached to the battery now) and tape it to the wire from one end of the light bulb wire. Put the wire from the light bulb inside the folds of aluminum foil. Make sure the copper colored wire of the light is touching the foil before you apply the tape. Attach a paper clip to the other wire from the light bulb. Attach a second paper clip to the end of the remaining loose piece of foil. Use tape to secure. Test your quiz wand by touching the two ends together. If everything is working, the light will light up! If it doesn’t light up, troubleshoot by testing your batteries, bulb and connections.
If you are using 1 lithium coin battery and an LED: Create two more strips of foil 6-8in long. Starting with one strip, tape one end firmly to the positive side of the battery. Tape the other end securely to the anode side of the LED (look carefully into the bulb of your LED; the anode end has the smaller metal ‘flag’ on it). Take the second strip of aluminum foil and tape one end to the negative side of the battery.
Cut the legs off one brad so that you have two small strips of metal. Tape one to the free end of aluminum foil. Tape the other little metal strip to the cathode end (the free end) of the LED. Test your quiz wand by touching the two ends together. If everything is working, the light will light up! If it doesn’t light up, troubleshoot by testing your battery, bulb and connections.
6. Try out your quiz board! Flip it over and touch one end of your quiz wand to the brad next to one of the questions. (If you didn’t use paper fasteners, just poke the end of your quiz wand into the hole a little bit so it is directly touch the aluminum foil.) Touch the other end of your quiz wand to the answer. If you got the answer right, the light will light up! Now test your family and friends.
Curious Jane, founded by contributor Samantha Razook Murphy, offers project-based after-school programs and summer camps, revolving around creativity in the arts and sciences.