Adding Reach and Ownership with Paper Airplane Circuits

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Craig Erschel Shepherd
Shannon M. Smith
Cassandra Kvenild
Alan Buss
Claire Ratcliffe


University faculty members, librarians, and support staff developed hands-on, consumable, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curricular materials that could be inexpensively provided to large audiences. Goals included fostering STEM interest, teaching STEM principles, and encouraging continued exploration in home and school settings. This case describes design processes to realize these goals through basic circuits with paper airplanes and simple origami. Following several design implementations, kits costing ~$0.33 each were created and distributed to learners. Within these kits, learners created a back-lit paper airplane as they explored concepts regarding circuit definitions; open, closed, series, and parallel circuits; shorts; polarity; and current. Additional activities included LED bracelets, cubes, and greeting cards. Within this paper, we document successive design decisions, failures, reflections, and iterations that moved goals to reality. We also describe new design challenges, including waste management, sustained exploration, and advanced concept introductions.


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How to Cite
Shepherd, C. E., Smith, S. M., Kvenild, C., Buss, A., & Ratcliffe, C. (2021). Adding Reach and Ownership with Paper Airplane Circuits. International Journal of Designs for Learning, 12(2), 127–136.
Author Biographies

Craig Erschel Shepherd, University of Memphis

Craig E. Shepherd is an Associate Professor of Instructional Design and Technology at the University of Memphis. He researches technology use to foster knowledge acquisition and build community.

Shannon M. Smith, Utah State University

Shannon M. Smith is an Assistant Librarian at Utah State University. She researches best practices and ethics for emerging library services, collaborative learning, and multimedia information behavior.

Cassandra Kvenild, University of Wyoming

Cassandra Kvenild is Associate Dean of Libraries at the University of Wyoming. She researches embedded librarianship and technology use to engage learners with information literacy.

Alan Buss, University of Wyoming

Alan Buss is a Professor of Elementary Education at the University of Wyoming. He researches technology integration to enhance science/mathematics learning.

Claire Ratcliffe, Space Science Institute, Boulder CO

Claire Ratcliffe is an Education Coordinator at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. She develops STEM curricula and professional development for library education programs through the National Center for Interactive Learning.