Workshop 3: Electronics

copyright Michael Myers 2009

Joyce Hinterding, Aura, 2009

In week 3’s workshop, we begin our foray into the world of electronics. Why? You may ask. We find out how electronics have been used as a medium by contemporary artists. This is a handy tool to add to your repertoire. We begin by getting into the material basics of electricity.

Analysis: Electronics for creative practitioners

Research one of the following works:

Joyce Hinterding, Aura, 2009

Jim Campbell, Swim through Space, 2015

Pia Van Gelder, Machine/ Animal/ Vegetable, 2012

Wonbin Yang, Segnisiter continuus, Species series, 2012

Present to class and discuss:

  1. The work – what kind of materials and components are used to create it?
  2. How do the different materials function together? How are electronics and physical materials brought together?
  3. What is the role of electronics in the functioning of the work e.g. sound, light, movement, interaction?
  4. What ideas are being explored in the work? How do electronic components contribute to this exploration?
  5. How may an audience interact with the work? What is the audience’s experience?

Exercise: Paper Circuit

In a group of 2, create a circuit that conducts electricity using the 12B graphite pencils, conductive pens, conductive ink, paper, clips, and LEDs, by following the instructions below.

Now, make the light bulb flash … using any mechanical mean you can think of. Draw a picture of how you will make the light bulb flash.

About electrical circuits

Electricity is a flow of electric charge (electrons). Electricity in nature: static electricity, lightning, electric pulses in the body etc.

Russian scientist Georg Richmann was killed by the electric charge of lightning while repeating Benjamin Franklin’s experiment

Electricity can kill! NEVER TINKER WITH 240V!! Follow Safety protocols! For this subject, do not hack into devices that use 240V electricity!

These the most common features you will need to know about an electric circuit:

Current (I): the flow of electrons, measured in Ampere (A)

Potential or Voltage (E or sometimes V): the electric potential difference between two points, measured in Volts (V)

Resistance (R): force in opposition to the flow of current, measured in Ohms (Ω)

Things to remember:

  • Electrons flow from the negative terminal to the positive terminal.
  • An electric circuit is composed of electronic components connected by conductive wires.
  • A closed circuit allows the current to flow.
  • An open circuit is a broken circuit that interrupts the electric flow.

A handy rule to work out what kind of resistor you may need for a circuit (R), or what battery you might need (V), use the Ohm’s Law:


E = I x R

or R = E/ I

or I = E / R

Demonstration: How to use a multimeter

We can tell whether there is electrical current flowing through a circuit by using a multimeter. A multimeter can also measure voltage and resistance.

Having a look at your multimeter, what type do you have?

Now, use a multimeter to measure the voltage, current, and resistance in your graphite circuit. Can you vary the resistance by changing your circuit in some way?

When you vary the length between connections (i.e. resistance) in the form of a slider,  what happens to the LED?

Swap LED with a buzzer, what happens when you vary the resistance in the circuit?

Have a look at Julien Maire’s play with graphite, paper and electronics here:

Exercise: Simple Motor

Electromagnetics form the fundamental parts of many electrical devices from motors, audio speakers, door bells, magnetic resonance imaging machines to the Large Hadron Collider. You may remember from your High School days that when electricity passes through conductive materials like copper wire, an magnetic field is formed or inducing a magnetic field. This is also how a motor works. Following the instructions here:  Project 6-1: DIY Motor with Magnet Wire (page 124 – 7) from Dustyn Roberts’ Making Things Move (available in the library).

You may want to do this pairs rather than in threes as it can be fiddly.


  1. Document your findings and class exercises on your blog.
  2. Find out what the following terms mean:
  • Direct Current (DC)
  • Alternating Current (AC)
  • Conductors
  • Semi-conductors
  • Superconductors
  • Insulators
  • Resistors (including variable resistors)
  • Capacitors
  • Coils/ Transformers
  • Diodes
  • Transistors
  • Circuit in series
  • Circuits in parallel
  • Series-parallel circuit

You should have visited one or more of the exhibitions for the Research Essay assignment. Bring any questions you have to class.


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