Origami LEDs at the Maker Faire Pittsburgh

Over October 10th and 11th, Pittsburgh’s finest makers descended upon Nova Place for the first full scale Maker Faire Pittsburgh. This was region’s largest showcase of making, building and creating, and was composed of over 200 makers. Pop Craft is proud to have been among them, and to have helped Maker Faire attendees to make 86 projects though our hands on workshops.

At the Faire, Pop Craft hosted Origami LED and Concrete Casting workshops. Origami was a new addition for our line up, but it was so well received we were over capacity. In response to this excitement for learning origami and combining it with basic circuitry to light an LED, I’m posting the instructions and templates we used in the workshop.

A little bit about Circuits

A circuit is a pathway that carries power to a device, like an LED, to make it light up. Circuits consist of conductive material creating the pathway, and an energy source. In this project, copper tape is our conductive material, and a 3 volt batter is our power source. For power to travel within a circuit, it must be closed, meaning there is a continuous path from the positive battery terminal, to device, and back to the negative terminal. As we create our circuit, it will remain open until we complete our origami and close the circuit with the folds.

Watch a video defining a circuit here.

Create an Origami LED

To create an Origami LED animals shown in this tutorial, you will need:

Tracing your Circuit

With the templates provided above, you can make either a Frog or a Crane. Using the template for the origami of your choice, trace the thick black lines and the triangle with a pencil on to your origami paper. Take note of which side of your origami paper should be facing upwards while tracing, indicated at the top of the template (colored side or white side). The crane requires tracing onto both sides of your origami paper.

Adding Copper Tape and an LED

Following the bold lines you have just traced, you will cover these lines with copper tape. Where the copper tape runs parallel, make the tape paths run close together, but do not let them touch. In the Crane project, the copper tape continues around the edge – wrap a single piece of tape around the edge so there is not a break in the copper.

Once all of your copper tape is in place, adhere an LED circuit sticker where you traced the triangle. The pointy end of the LED is the negative side, and the fat end is the positive side. The gold in the circuit on the positive and negative sides should run in the same direction as the copper tape, touching one piece of copper tape each.

Folding Origami

Once your copper tape and LED are installed, you are ready to fold! Following the instructions for your origami animal, complete all folds. As you get started, if you find that your LED is in the way of a fold, undo previous folds and move the LED out of the way. The LED stickers can withstand some bending, but they will break if bent too far.

To help you with some of the Crane folds, I’m including pictures for a few select steps.

Steps 6, 7, and 8:

Steps 6 - 8, Reverse Folds

And same steps, different angle…

Reverse Folds


Steps 9 and 10:

Steps 9 and 10, Folding the Neck and Tail

Installing the Battery

Once your origami is complete, you will install the battery. On the Frog, the positive terminal will be facing upwards. Attach a glue dot to the origami paper next to your copper tape on the foot of the frog, and then put the battery on top. The battery must touch the copper tape on the foot, and also the copper tape on the body when the body of the frog is pressed down. The pressing down and releasing of the body will make the frog hop.


On the Crane, you will open up the chest of the crane an install the battery on the right side as you look at the crane from the front. In the same way as the frog, attach the glue dot to the origami paper, and attach the battery with the positive side facing outward. When you close the chest, the copper tape should touch on both sides of the battery. Hold the chest and battery as you pull the tail to make the wings flap.

When the two paths of copper tape touch the opposite sides of the battery, you will light your LED!


Check out this video of the wings flapping with the LED lit up. And yes, there have been cat feet and tails in several of the above pictures.

Trouble Shooting

If your LED does not light, here are some common issues you should trouble shoot:

  • Reversed battery – If you have the battery backwards, or have installed the LED backwards, you will need to reverse the polarity of the battery.
  • Broken LED – Unfold your origami and check that the LED is not severely bent, or broken. A bent LED may lose contact with your copper tape. Flatten it, or replace it.
  • Short circuit – If your two paths of copper tape touch each other, this can cause a short circuit and cause the LED to blink, or not light at all. If your folds make your copper paths touch, try widening and offsetting the spacing of your paths.

Published by monnielee

Artist, Crafter, Entrepreneur

2 thoughts on “Origami LEDs at the Maker Faire Pittsburgh

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