Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab
Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab

Pseudo-Circuit Battleships

For this week’s assignment, we had to create some sort of paper circuit display using: copper tape, a watch cell battery, & some LEDs. In my case it was all those listed items plus some alligator clamps. The purpose of this assignment is to give us a very basic understanding of how electrons flow to make a circuit.

Initial Concept

Instead of making a paper display with LEDs, I decided to do something a little more engaging. I made a small time version of the board game “Battleships” where the players used alligator clamps to scout for enemy “ships”(red LED). A player uses their alligator clamp to find enemy ships by clamping down on a positive end of the opponent’s LED. If it clamps onto an enemy ship the LED will light up red, if they miss the LED will light white. Instead of mimicking the 100 square board that Battleships has, I only did 9 squares so that I would be able to get the point of the design across.

First Run

To the left is the first version of the battleship board. The copper tape can be seen intended to make the 3×3 grid. I have an arbitrary LED at the bottom right of the copper box which I used to test the circuit. The placement of the watch battery servers a structural purpose by weighing down the paper flaps when the board is standing up. Once the player taps the positive side of the LED, the circuit is completed and the LED lights up.


I learned a couple things from making this prototype. For starters, terrible spot for the alligator clamp. The clamp being at the bottom of the paper made it difficult for the whole board to stand up. Also, paper is a poor material for making things stand up on their own so the jump to construction paper was made. Finally, I learned that completing the circuit while using another piece of metal, that is not the top of the watch cell battery, made completing the circuit inconsistent. So, I had to anchor the clamps to the actual board.

Final Form

Pictured above in the blurry picture on the left and the clear picture on the right is the final form of the pseudo Battleship game. The LEDs on the paper have their positive side sticking through the paper so that the opposing player can clamp on to it while the negative side sits under copper tape waiting to be completed. I moved the clamp position from the bottom of the paper to the side of the board. This allows for not only a better structure, but also looks nice. From these pictures, one can see how this method could be applied to a large board for a real game of Battleships. Overall the project went well and turned out better than I thought it would.


Working with circuits was harder than I thought it would be! I’d like to think I am good at design, but when it comes to circuits I have no clue. I typically do not go for the most basic idea/what is assigned at a base level. So, thinking of something was the most challenging part of this assignment. My issue with circuits might stem from me not being able to visualize what is going on within the circuit. The water analogy seems to be the best visualization but, it just doesn’t do it for me. Doing projects like these could help my situation.

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