BuiltWithNOF
Torches

Making torches is great fun. You can use your imagination and have all sorts of wonderful ideas for fun and useful light up products.

Perhaps these names, titles or themes will set you thinking about the type of torch you would like to make.

Lights for places...

camping

bedside table

in a cupboard

Lights for occasions or events...

Halloween

Christmas

Table decorations

Lights for...

Emergencies

Warnings

Messages

Or why not invent a game or toy where turning on a light-bulb is important? Perhaps the following items might start you thinking.

This is a set of parts for making a basic torch which can then be modified to create a variety of different light-up products.

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This is the basic torch made from the set of parts. It is just the starting point for a variety of science and technology activities.

The basic torch is simple and reliable. The battery is easily changed and the bulb can be swapped for various types - see later. Parts can be added to alter the function of the torch and to make it look different and serve a different purpose.

The torch kit is available in sets of 30 for schools or as a boxed project kit containing lots of additional parts.

See the Boxed kits for sale and Resources for sale
pages for more details.

Switches

A switch controls the flow of electricity so that it is either on or off. It uses a combination of conductors and insulators to complete a circuit and allow electricity to flow or to make a break in a circuit and stop the flow of electricity.

The basic torch can only be turned on or off by moving one of the paper fastener connections onto or away from the end of the battery. There are a variety of ways to improve this and to incorporate a switch into the design.

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Here one of the ‘prongs’ of the paper fastener is held in position above the end (terminal) of the battery. When the fastener, which is made from metal, is pressed it touches the terminal and completes the circuit causing the bulb to turn on. Because the fastener is ‘springy’ it moves away from the terminal when we release it and this turns the bulb off. A very simple but effective switch!
The elastic band around the battery has been moved out of the way a little to allow the fastener to make contact with the battery terminal.

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This picture shows how the fastener was fitted into the foam block.
First a hole was pierced in the foam block with a pencil near to the battery terminal.
The fastener was removed from its sleeve and one of the prongs bent outwards.
The fastener was then replaced in the sleeve but with only one of the prongs inside in contact with the connecting wire.
The sleeve and fastener were then pushed into the hole together with the red connecting wire which is attached to the fastener. This leaves the prong outside the sleeve in position over the battery terminal.

Another type of switch uses a combination of card (insulator) and metal paper fasteners (conductor) to ‘make’ or ‘break’ an electrical circuit.

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You will need: some flexible (muti-strand) wire; two paper fasteners; small piece of card; sticky tape.

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Fold the card in half and crease firmly. Pierce through both halves with a paper fastener so that the two holes line up with each other. Then wrap the bare wire around the fastener as shown and open it out flat to secure the wire.

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Cut and strip the insulation from the ends of two pieces of wire 20cm long.

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Position the second fastener and wrap wire around it as before and fold flat to secure the wire. Note both fasteners are pierced through the card so that when it is folded the fasteners will touch ‘head to head’. Cover the opened end where the wire is with tape to prevent it coming loose.

switch connected to torch picture!!!

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Twist the bare wire ends tightly to bring the individual strands together into one.

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The finished switch looks like this with the wires twisted together part of the way along to keep them secure and tidy. The folded card is springy so when the switch is pressed it closes but pushes open when released. The free ends of the wires are used to connect the switch to the torch circuit.

The basic torch can be made into all sorts of light-up gadgets such as a lighthouse, bedside night-light or light-up character. Here are some fun things to try.......

Coloured body designs and reflectors

A torch with reflector

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Coloured paper can be used to create a coloured body for the torch.

Prit stick does not stick very well to the modeling foam but it will stick to the cloured paper. If you tightly wrap and crease the paper along the edges then use prit stick on the final edge it will cover really well.

To make a reflector which helps make a beam of light you can cut a square of silvered paper 5cm x 5cm then make a hole for the bulb in the centre. Then curve the reflector and hold it in place by wrapping around with another strip of coloured paper held in place using prit stick.

This greatly intensifies the light being directed forwards from the torch bulb.
Being able to ‘reflect’ light is very important. Here is a diagram to show how many ‘rays’ of light are made to go in one direction only and produce a powerful beam as in a car headlight.

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Point F is the ‘focal point’ of the reflector (mirror) and the arrows show that light starting at point F (where the bulb is positioned) can’t pass through the mirror in the direction right to left and is reflected to the right instead.
Of course there is also the light from the bulb at point F which travels to the right without having to strike the mirror but this is not shown on the diagram.

Try and find out about concave and parabolic mirrors or reflectors.
The point labeled ‘O’ is called the ‘centre of curvature’ of the mirror. What does this mean?

‘Lens end’ bulbs make a ‘beam’ of light or spotlight

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Light spreads out in all directions from a normal bulb and as we have found out above we can point more of the light in one direction if we use a reflector to change the direction of some of the ‘rays’ of light.
A ‘lens end’ bulb produces a narrow beam of light by concentrating the rays of light together. The light rays pass through the lens (a curved piece of glass as used in a magnifying glass) and have their direction slightly altered so that more rays are travelling in the same direction in line with the centre of the lens.
The effect is to produce a small spotlight which is ideal for small torches as used by a doctor to look in your ear!

The spotlight is ideal for experimenting with light and for making clear shadows - see later.

More about REFLECTION

Try this, it’s great fun!
You will need a torch with spotlight beam, some card, scissors, white paper, small plastic mirror and small piece of blu-tac.

Make two long cuts very close together in a small square of card. Remove the tiny strip from between the cuts. This makes a ‘slit’ which is a great way to make a narrow beam of light for experiments.

Fold the card to make it stand up on top of a sheet of plain white paper and if necessary use tiny pieces of blu-tac to make it stand up as shown in the picture below. The card slit must make good contact with the paper below it or a poor light ray is produced.

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Try bringing the torch up to the slit and try to produce a bright but narrow light ray on the paper.

If the torch is too close to the slit the light ray will spread out too much and become too wide for the experiments.

Now position a small mirror quite close but at an angle to the slit as shown. There must be no gap under the mirror!!! Place the blu-tac at the sides to make sure there is no gap to allow light underneath the mirror.

Dim the room lights and try the torch beam on the slit again. You should be able to produce a clear ray of light along the paper from slit to mirror and another reflected ray from the mirror. If you can’t see a reflected ray of light try tilting the mirror a tiny bit one way or another and it should appear - be patient, it’s worth it!

Try the following....

  1. Slowly move the torch to the left and right of the slit but make sure the spotlight beam is always on the slit.
  2. Slowly move the beam towards then away from the slit.
  3. Try altering the angle of the mirror by removing the blu-tac and holding the mirror by hand. Alter the angle one way then the other a little at a time. Where does the reflected beam go? Can you predict what it will do?
  4. Try placing a piece of coloured gel plastic in front of the slit so that a coloured beam is produced and repeat the mirror experiments.
  5. Try making two more thin slits in the card, one on either side of the first. Try the experiments with the light beam and mirror again now that there are 3 slits.

 

Here are some pictures showing some of the experiments in action...

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A single ray of light reflected from a mirror.

Fibre Optic Cable

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Twin reflected rays of red light crossing over one another.

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Two mirrors and a double reflection. This is made use of in a ‘periscope’. Can you think why?

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This picture shows a piece of fibre optic cable with light being shone on it from a torch on the left hand side. The light enters the cable and travels along inside it like water travels along a curled up hose pipe! The light can be seen leaving at the end of the cable on the right hand side. It’s hard to believe but the light actually travels along by being repeatedly reflected off the inside wall of the cable. The light zig-zags its way along the cable until it reaches the end so by the time it has finished it has travelled much further than the normal length of the cable!!!

Shadows

A ‘shadow mask’ torch

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This is a ‘shadow torch’. A cut-out face or shape is fitted onto the front of the torch. The light from the bulb shines through the cut-out parts but is blocked by the rest of the card which is ‘opaque’. This creates a shadow on a wall or ceiling. You have to be in a dark room to see the shadow! A shadow is simply an area where no direct light from a source falls!

Mister ‘Light bulb head’ night light

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This night light gives you a surprise when you turn it on!
Inside the yellow translucent ‘head’ there is a shadow mask of a face made from dark card.
When the bulb is switched off the card cannot be seen because very little light passes through the yellow paper.
When the bulb is turned on the strong light produced passes through the holes in the mask causing the yellow paper to light up the eyes, nose and mouth as well as the head.

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Shadow Puppet Theatres are brilliant!

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These theatres were made by pupils at Laygate Primary school in South Shields. The video below shows how the pupils were starting to develop ideas about their own plays eg. a scene with a ship on the ocean. The waves were made from card, as was the ship. The ship was attached to a drinking straw. The torch, which was made by the pupils as part of the project, was being moved to create a moving shadow.

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Click to view the video clip

A Lighthouse

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Every Lighthouse has its own special flash sequence so that ships at sea know exactly which one it is and where it is on the coast. Lighthouses are still important but ships today use RADAR and GPS to make sure they know exactly where they are at all times. Over the years Lighthouses have saved many lives by guiding ships home in bad weather. They have loud foghorns too!

This is Souter Lighthouse on the cliffs at Whitburn on the North East coast near South Shields on the River Tyne. It has a very powerful flashing light that can be seen for many miles out to see.

Let’s make a model lighthouse

card cylinder

The basic lighthouse shape is made from a cardboard tube or by rolling a sheet of card or paper around the tube as a ‘former’ to create a cylinder shape.
The basic torch can be placed standing upright so that the beam points skyward. Then the cylinder (assuming it is wide enough) is placed over the torch so that the light form the torch shines up inside the cylinder.
A reflector made from silvered paper or kitchen foil is then fitted at the top of the tower inside the roof of the room (‘lighthouse’) at the top.
The light from the torch is reflected outwards and can be seen clearly in a dimly lit room or at night.
Translucent coloured paper or transparent ‘gel’ can be used in the windows of the lighthouse and this looks very effective.

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The cone shaped roof is made by drawing around an old cd and cutting out a circle. Then cut the circle in half and curl one half into the cone shape so that the centre of the semicircle becomes the tip of the cone. Hold in shape with glue or tape.

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A flashing bulb can be used. This has a special metal strip inside it which moves to’ and fro’ (like the metal contact of a switch) when the bulb warms up and causes it to turn on and off repeatedly.

The lighthouse can form part of a coastal scene with cliffs, rocks, beach and sea made from coloured papers and various craft materials.

The rocks could be made from crunched up paper or packaging foam pieces glued onto a card box which fits over the torch or lighthouse base.

Some examples of lighthouses and light up gadgets made by year 4 students at Bede Academy in Blyth, Northumberland.

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This lighthouse has a motor which spins the light bulb and battery around.

This lighthouse has a cone shaped roof and the reflector is about to be fitted.

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A stage set lit by the bulb placed inside the roof.

A foil cake tin as a reflector on a train light.

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A novelty pencil box and butterfly night-light.

A camera with light-up ‘flash’ bulb.

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Calculator with light-up screen.

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A light-up Moon hanging decoration.

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A space ship with signal light.

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A Morse code flashing light.

A light-up ambulance and scoreboard timer.

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Adding a separate switch outside the lighthouse or gadget allows you to turn the bulb on and off without having to touch the torch itself. If you have made a lighthouse then this can be a lot of fun because you can design your own flashing light sequences just like in a real lighthouse.

You can even send messages by Morse Code.

Morse Code was a very important way to send messages before telephones were invented in 1876. Long after this time it is still being used for communications at sea, in emergencies and in some countries of the world.

Morse code is a simple sequence of short and long flashes (or bleeps of a buzzer) written as dots and dashes. Each combination of flashes stands for a letter of the alphabet.

For example          . . .      _ _ _     . . .

 

means                  S          O           S

 

In other words if you made your lighthouse flash as follows

3 short flashes   then  3 long flashes   then    3 short flashes   you will have sent the message  SOS.

You could also spell out your name in flashes of light!

You can see a complete copy of the Morse Code Alphabet in the Science Investigations section on the page with title Electricity 1.

Other ideas

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Here are some pictures of circuits and models which use light bulbs. Can you see the owl? There is a robot there too, but I don’t think he’s quite finished!

I’m sure there are lots more light up inventions, models and gadgets which can be made. If you think of one or make one then please e-mail and describe it!

Happy inventing!

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