Geeky Crafts for Mad Scientist Kids: DIY Lego Night Light
Making stuff is probably one of the greatest sources of pride for a child. When the project combines fun and a useful bedtime component, it’s even better. Add electricity – you have a mad scientist project! Yes, basic electricity is accessible to school-age kids with (some) adult supervision and kids can get quick results with minimal efforts. My 9-year old and I started this project after she made a flashlight at school. We wanted to replicate the flashlight at home but our local hardware store missed a few elements so we made this lamp instead. My daughter decided to make a Lego lampshade to sit on top of the light bulb and it’s been on her bedside table ever since. Voilà!
Now, here’s the nitty gritty.
How long the project takes: once you have all the elements, less than 30 minutes.
What you’ll need:
- Wood base to mount the circuit – I used a 10″x3.5″x1.5″ wood scrap piece but any wood piece large enough to accommodate the contraption and thicker than the screws will do
- 4.5V flat battery – the kind with two flat terminal connections (hardware/grocery store)
- 1 lamp holder (hardware store)
- 1 light bulb, 1.2V (hardware store)
- Insulated Bell wire, 10 inches or more – depending on size of wood base (electricity/lamp store)
- 1 light switch (hardware store)
- 4 small screws to mount the light switch and lamp holder (hardware store)
- Duct tape (hardware store)
- 40 Lego bricks 8 stud, assorted colors
- 3 Lego bricks 12 stud, assorted colors
- Small pair of scissors
- Hand drill (or power drill if you have one)
Instructions and photos (click on photos to enlarge):
A simple electric circuit is a circuit including a power source (battery), a resistor (light bulb) and a switch connected to each other in series, meaning a chain sequence where the wires connect the battery to the switch, the switch to the light bulb, and the light bulb back to the other end of the battery. Make sure the wire goes around like a daisy chain and you should get guaranteed light results.
To mount your elements, it will be handy to use the above picture as a guide. Before you mount them on the board, try to connect all the elements to make sure that connections run smoothly.
- Loosen the contact screws (not mounting screws) on the lamp holder and on the switch to make them ready for connecting the wires.
- Cut the wire down the middle (you will get two insulated threads) and the threads into three pieces of wire – a longer piece, a medium piece and a shorter piece. Remove the insulation from one inch of each end of the wires. To do that, first make a cut with scissors on the plastic insulation all around the wire. Then pull the insulation sleeve out. It will pop away quite easily to expose the copper wire.
- Use the longer piece of wire to connect the battery terminal connection (by coiling the exposed wire around the flat end) to a contact screw on the lamp holder.
- Use the medium wire to connect the other contact screw of the lamp holder to one of the screws on the light switch.
- Use the shorter wire to connect the last screw on the switch to the remaining terminal connection of the battery (by coiling the exposed wire around the flat end).
- Now screw in the light bulb and flip the switch. If it doesn’t work, it’s maybe because you didn’t mount the elements in a sequence and that some wires are touching. If that is the case, it’s an easy fix. None of the wires should touch each other.
- When you’re happy with the set-up, position it on the board and use the four small mounting screws to mount the switch and the lamp holder to the appropriate places on the board. The battery can be secured to the board with duct tape.
- Build the Lego lampshade by building a rectangular tower with the following base: two 8-stud Lego bricks on the long side and 1 8-stud Lego brick on the narrow side. Check the picture for guidance on how to build, it’s pretty Lego-logical. Of course, you are totally free to build a different kind of lampshade. That’s the beauty of Legos!
Disclaimer: This project first appeared in a slightly different version in a piece I wrote for The Savvy Source. Here is a link to it.