StarWars: The Last Jedi is about to come out in theaters, which means nothing will motivate science quite like a good ol' StarWars theme.
If you are working on learning about simple circuits, why not make a Luke Skywalker DIY Lightsaber to play with and bring to the show? Kids will be ecstatic to be building their own lightsaber, and you'll be happy that it doesn't pinch the wallet too much. Sure it won't have sound effects that track with the motion, but that is a far more complicated electronics project. This is similar to the paper lightsabers made out of LEDs, straws and paper, but way cooler in the fact that it has a hilt and actually looks like a lightsaber.
I love this DIY Luke Skywalker Lightsaber project because it's easy to make with your kids.
You don't need all that much in the way of supplies either: popsicle sticks, copper tape, a battery and an LED. If you want to spruce it up even more you can get a simple tactile button switch.
When making this Luke Skywalker Kids Lightsaber I like to use the jumbo craft popsicle sticks because you can hide the battery in the hilt a little easier. With regular popsicle sticks the battery will stick out like a disk at the bottom.
It's not a big issue, just a personal preference in terms of looks.
Quick Steps to make a DIY Kids Lightsaber
Supplies you need:
- Print the Luke Skywalker Lightsaber instructions sheet
- Add copper tape to two of the popsicle sticks
- Tape in a green LED. (The Luke Skywalker Lightsaber is green)
- Add a foil switch
- Insert battery
- Test to see if your Luke Skywalker Lightsaber is working
- Wrap hilt in electrical tape
How to make a simple circuit lightsaber for kids
First, you'll need to pick out three popsicle sticks
These popsicle sticks will get sandwiched together to act as the hilt of your Luke Skywalker Lightsaber. We will add copper tape to two of the popsicle sticks to wire the LED at the top of the battery placed at the bottom. Below is a schematic of each of the popsicle sticks.
One popsicle stick will have the switch.
A switch is an open part of the circuit that you will close when you want the LED to light up, and open when you want it to be off. To make the switch popsicle stick you will wrap a piece of copper tape in a band around the short part of the popsicle stick, and another band just below that. The gap between the two bands is where the switch will be, so you want to place it at a comfortable location for your child's thumb.
Once you have made a gap between the two bands of copper tape you will run a piece of copper tape from one band to the end of the popsicle stick. Repeat this process for the other band to it looks like the first popsicle stick below.
One popsicle stick will be a wire.
To make your wire run a single piece of copper tape along the length of the popsicle stick on one side only, as shown in the middle diagram below.
One popsicle stick will be the insulator between wires.
The last popsicle stick will not have any copper tape (or wires) on it. Instead, you will cut the bottom portion of this popsicle stick off. To know how much to cut, place a CR2032 battery at the bottom of the stick and mark a line along the top of the battery. Cut off that piece. This will now act as a battery holder when the lightsaber is put together.
Next we will connect our LED to the kids lightsaber circuit.
In the finished Luke Skywalker lightsaber the legs of the LED, along with the copper tape wires that run the length of the popsicle sticks will be facing in.
Choose a green LED since Luke Skywalker's lightsaber was green. Then separate the legs slightly. Using copper tape, tape one leg of the LED to the copper tape on the inside of one of the popsicle sticks. It doesn't matter which one you choose.
The wire leg of the LED should now be sandwiched between two pieces of copper tape on a popsicle stick. If you are having trouble you can also use scotch or electirical tape to secure the lightsaber LED in place.
Then, using copper tape, tape the other leg of the LED to the copper tape on the other popsicle stick.
The third popsicle stick, that has no copper tape on it, will be sandwiched between the other two after both legs of the LED have been taped down.
Once your LED is in place, we will need to make the switch.
In order for the circuit to work, we must bridge the gap with another conducting material. Otherwise, our circuit will never be closed, and the LED will never turn on. You can bridge the gap with a piece of foil, or, if you choose to get fancy, you can insert a simple push button tact switch from online.
Adding the battery to your Luke Skywalker Lightsaber
All circuits need a source of power. In this step, we will add the power in the form of a CR2032 battery.
Press your switch down so it covers the gap and closes the circuit. Then insert your CR2032 battery at the bottom of your lightsaber hilt. Does the LED light up? If so, use electrical tape to tape the battery into place.
If your LED doesn't light up flip the battery over. LEDs are polar, which means they are like one-way streets or slides - they have a direction to them. If the battery is inserted in the wrong direction a bunch of electrons will just stare at the bottom of the slide and not go anywhere, which means they aren't going through the LED to light it up.
Adding the "saber" to your lightsaber.
Right now you have an LED on the end of a stick that lights up. It is more like a Harry Potter wand than it is a Luke Skywalker lightsaber. I have always used a clear glue stick as the saber portion of this lightsaber, but I imagine you can just as easily use a clear straw, although the glowing effect might not be quite the same.
For a brighter lightsaber use a clear mini glue stick. Note that glue sticks can come in many colors, clear, and semi-clear are two, among many, options. The clear glue sticks work better in this project.
With the tip of a hot glue gun, melt a hole on the end of the mini glue stick. With that glue hole still hot, press it to the top of your LED and hold until the glue cools.
Secure your lightsaber by adding some hot glue to the LED to hold it in place, and wrap your whole Luke Skywalker lightsaber in electrical tape. Then decorate the hilt to your heart's content!
Having trouble with your LED lighting up?
Double check that your switch is closed - often when someone puts in the battery they will naturally remove their hand holding down the switch.
Check all of your connections. Press firmly on the copper tape that is holding the LED in place and smooth out the copper tape along the popsicle sticks.
Make sure you aren't short-circuiting your lightsaber. That is, make sure the middle popsicle stick is keeping all copper tape from touching, and that the two legs of your LED aren't connected with copper tape.
Still having trouble with your LED lighting up?
Try making some conductive paint, and paint this on all the "joints" of your circuit. Joints are where copper tape joins another piece of copper tape and where the metal of the LED leg or push button switch meets copper tape.
Watch Dr. Erica on YouTube as she makes the project to see if you have everything in order.
And now you know how to make a kids lightsaber!