Troubleshooting Pens & Circuits
Having problems getting pens or drawn circuits to work?
Follow our troubleshooting guide below!
Troubleshooting is a great skill for kids to learn. See our coaching tips at the bottom.
Getting Ink to Flow
- Hold pen upright
- Use a light touch
- Let ink flow like paint
Circuit Problems? Redraw Your Line
The most common reason circuits don't work is that the drawn lines have a break somewhere, creating an open circuit.
Often, these breaks occur where lines meet the round pads (see image at right) which can be hard to see.
It's a good idea to draw over your lines as a first step to make sure you have enough conductive ink to complete the circuit.
Some Modules Need to Be Aligned
Start by Simplifying the Problem
It's hard to troubleshoot something complicated all at once. See if you can isolate one thing at a time to test.
In the image to the right, you can see that the top circuit isn't working. A good first step illustrated in the bottom half is to isolate the first section, from the battery to the first two drawn pads. Here the LED lights up, so we know that the battery and the first two lines are working. Then we can move on to the next two lines, and continue on from there.
Don't Draw BETWEEN Feet of a Module
Electric current is lazy! If you draw between the feet of a module, the current will sneak under instead of lighting the light, turning the motor, or doing whatever work you want it to do.
Easy fix: Take scissors and cut any lines between the feet to break that line.
Teach Kids to Troubleshoot
Running into problems is good! It's your opportunity to teach kids (or adults!) how to troubleshoot - this is what real engineers do.
Here are some tips:
- Resist! Don't step in and show them the answer or fix the problem. You may find this difficult to stand, but do it for them 🙂
- Instead, ask questions. Lead them to follow their own path of inquiry
- Have students teach each other to get past roadblocks
- Coach them to think logically, to follow a circuit (or a problem) from start to finish