Dance Pad Mania


  • 1

    Here are some of the materials you can use

    • 1 AA battery
    • AA battery holder (optional)
    • aluminum foil
    • bulb holder
    • 1 buzzer (preferably with wires attached) 
    • electrical wire (1–2 ft. [0.3–0.4 m]) (22-gauge works well)
    • light bulb
    • paper
    • plastic wrap
    • scissors
    • 2 sheets corrugated cardboard (11 x 17-in. [28 x 43 cm]) (corrugated cardboard has grooves in the middle, such as a cardboard shipping box)
    • tape (duct or masking)
    • wire strippers 
  • 2

    Prepare ahead of time

    • Have paper and a pencil ready to write down ideas and sketches as you design.
    • Decide on whether you want your dance pad to buzz or to light up. (This challenge uses a buzzer, but the steps are exactly the same for using a light bulb.)
    • Think about when you have heard buzzers go off and seen lights flash when people dance. 
  • 3

    Think about the challenge

    • How does a dance pad work? Hint: It’s an electrical circuit.
    • Why might people use a dance pad?
    • How will you make the buzzer go on and off?
    • TIP: Electricity travels along a circuit. A buzzer needs a closed circuit in order to work. In a closed circuit, all the parts are connected and the electricity flows uninterrupted from the battery to the buzzer and back to the battery. In an open circuit, some parts are disconnected, and the gap prevents electricity from flowing—and the buzzer from buzzing. 
    • TIP: Inventors work to solve problems and find ways to improve things or meet people’s needs—including helping people have fun while dancing! Dancing is important to people and buzzers and lights can make dancing more fun and exciting.
  • 4

    Think about and write down a few ideas

    • How big will your dance pad be?
    • How can you make it sturdy enough to withstand constant pounding? 
    • How will you build a switch to turn the buzzer on and off?
    • Will you put the battery inside or outside the pad?
  • 5

    Look at the materials

    • What materials do you need to make a closed circuit?
    • What materials will make the buzzer turn on?
    • What materials will help make the dance pad sturdy?
    • How might you use the plastic wrap in building your dance pad?
    • TIP: Plastic wrap is elastic, and its flexibility can be useful for making a switch.
  • 6

    Test the buzzer (or the light)

    • Test the buzzer before you begin building.
    • Attach one end of the buzzer’s exposed wire to the battery.
    • Close the circuit by attaching the other end of the wire to the opposite side of the battery.
    • TIP: Connect the buzzer, battery, and wires to make a complete pathway for electricity to get from the battery to the buzzer. The buzzer will buzz when you close the circuit.
    • TIP: If the buzzer doesn’t work, check that the buzzer’s red wire is attached to the positive (+) side of the battery and the black wire to the negative (-) side. If not, reverse the wires and try again. 
  • 7

    Design and build the dance pad

    • Decide what materials you will use to make a sturdy dance pad.
    • Think about all the pounding it will take as you stomp on it.
    • TIP: Cardboard is stiff and can be used as a base. When folded, it can flex and acts like a spring to open and close a circuit. 
    • TIP: Plastic wrap stretches. Its springiness and flexibility will return it to its original shape once you remove the force.
    • TIP: If you are using folded corrugated cardboard for your dance pad, fold the cardboard along the corrugations (grooves) to get an even fold.
  • 8

    Design and build the dance pad (continued)

    • Plan where your battery circuit will sit—inside or outside your dance pad. Remember you will be dancing on the dance pad.
    • Check that your wire is long enough to reach the switch.
    • Secure the battery circuit so it doesn’t move around.
    • TIP: Place the key parts of your design in a place that is easy to get at in case you need to fix or adjust something. 
  • 9

    Stomp on the dance pad 

    • Stomp on the dance pad to test its flexibility.
    • Modify the pad if it doesn’t open and close as you step on it.
    • TIP: If the dance pad doesn’t spring open after you step on it, try using folded pieces of cardboard along the edge that can spring open when you step off the pad. Or use a small cardboard tube secured to the back of the dance pad that will squeeze together as you step on it but spring open as you step off it.  
    • TIP: Testing a design at different steps along the process is a good way to spot a problem when it happens instead of at the end of the process. 
  • 10

    Build the on/off switch

    • Decide what materials you will use to make a switch to turn your buzzer on and off.
    • Assemble the switch.
    • TIP: A switch starts and stops the flow of electricity by opening and closing a gap in the electrical circuit. 
  • 11

    Test the switch

    • Test the on/off switch.
    • Open and close the dance pad to be sure the buzzer turns on and off.
    • Modify your switch if it doesn’t turn on and off each time.
    • TIP: If your switch doesn’t work, check the wires to be sure they didn’t come lose and open a gap in the circuit.
    • TIP: If you find an open gap in your circuit, try using a piece of metal, such as foil or wire, to close the gap. Metal conducts or carries electricity.
  • 12

    Get ready to dance

    • Turn on the music.
    • Start dancing and listen to your dance pad buzz to the beat!
    • TIP: If the buzzer doesn’t work, check that positive and negative sides of the battery are connected to the right wires. If not, reverse the wires and try again. 
    • TIP: If the cardboard pad keeps breaking, try adding another layer of cardboard to make your pad sturdier so it can withstand all the stomping. 
  • 13

    Did you know?

    • Musical Staircase 
      At the Museum of Science in Boston, light beams, sensors, and footsteps can turn a regular walk up a flight of stairs into an interactive sound and musical experience. Christopher Janney is an artist, architect, and musician. In 1989, he used electrical sensors wired to a computer to make Soundstair (musical stairs) in the museum. There’s nothing boring about climbing these stairs! Every step you climb sends out a different tone—it could be a flute, stormy winds, or an animal call. So not only is walking up the stairs good for your health—on the musical staircase it’s also good for your ears!


  • 14

    Try this next!

    • Make your dance pad light up and buzz. Redesign your dance pad so it has both a light and a buzzer.
    • Double up the fun with two switches. Make a pad that uses two batteries and two lights or two buzzers.