In the classic board game Operation, players must remove organs from their "patient" without setting off a buzzing, flashing alarm. The inventor, John Spinello, got the idea from a childhood memory of sticking a safety-pin into a light socket -- although getting shocked when you make a false move has always been part of the fun!

There are a lot of DIY versions of the game Operation (including a really cute Adabot Operation game that uses the Adafruit Circuit Playground Express). But to try out this project with a group of middle-schoolers studying anatomy, I came up with a low-tech, low-cost version so every student could make their own.

This version uses mainly everyday household and recycled materials, and it's easy for kids to build themselves. There's no programming involved -- just a simple paper circuit, basic components, and 3V coin battery for power.

Educators: Do you want to do this project in the classroom or as an afterschool workshop? Look for suggestions for making Operation boxes with a group of kids or teens.

Parts List -- For Each Gameboard

Your game needs an LED to light up. I like the big gum-drop style, which also have nice long leads for connecting to the circuit.

To make a noise, you can use either a vibrating mini motor disc -- which provides a low hum as well as some haptic feedback -- or a tiny buzzer, which is much louder and squeakier. For the example shown, here, I used both, which created a nice two-tone effect (and toned-down some of the buzzer's squeakiness).

scattered pile of multi colored unlit LEDs
Need some chunky indicators? We are big fans of these diffused LEDs. They are fairly bright, so they can be seen in daytime, and from any angle. They go easily into a breadboard and...
In Stock
Vibrating Mini Motor Disc with two wires
*BZZZZZZZZZZ* Feel that? That's your little buzzing motor, and for any haptic feedback project you'll want to pick up a few of them. These vibe motors are tiny discs,...
In Stock
Breadboard friendly Buzzer
Hey want to hear a really loud noise? Apply 3V to 5V to this buzzer module and you'll be rewarded with a loud 2KHz BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP. Unlike a
In Stock
Front shot of CR2032 Lithium Coin Cell Battery upright.
A perfect match for our sew-able coin cell holder. This non-rechargeable coin cell is CR2032 sized: 20mm diameter, 3.2mm thick. It...
In Stock

Parts List -- To Share

Conductive tape lets you make a good connection between the components and the foil circuit. While I really love fabric conductive tape for most applications, I chose the copper foil tape for this one because it can be squeezed down more tightly against the foil. 

Stranded wire will endure more bending and twisting than solid-core. You only need one or two 25-foot rolls for an entire class, but it's nice to have a color selection!

The ceramic knife is a safer alternative to a regular craft blade, so kids can cut out their own gameboard openings. It's less likely to nick the skin, but it's still sharp, so caution is always advised!

Along with the pack of LEDs, above, these items contain enough material for 25-30 individual gameboards. Keep whatever's left on hand for use with other projects.
Large roll of quarter-inch wide copper tape.
Copper tape can be an interesting addition to your toolbox. The tape itself is made of thin pure copper so its extremely flexible and can take on nearly any shape. You can easily...
In Stock
Hook-up Wire Spool Set -22AWG Stranded-Core in box with 10 colorful wires coming out.
This is a box of ten 25ft spools of stranded-core wire. Stranded-core wire is best used for wiring jigs where...
In Stock
Red and black multi-size wire stripplers, closed
These are the finest wire strippers we have used, and if you have to do a lot of wiring, you will agree! They have soft rounded grips - very comfortable to use, and precision ground...
Out of Stock
If you can't order the parts you need at the present time, you can use aluminum foil and/or aluminum foil tape instead of copper foil tape. LEDs can be salvaged from light strands, tea lights, or old toys or devices. You may also be able to find a small vibrating motor in an old disposable toothbrush or pager.

Suggested Materials

In addition to the parts above, you will need:

  • thin, smooth-sided cardboard box (such as an empty cereal, cracker, or cake mix box)
  • glue stick (or spray-on glue)
  • heavy paper, such as construction paper or cardstock
  • markers or other drawing tools
  • aluminum foil (regular kitchen foil is fine)
  • aluminum foil tape (found with heating duct supplies -- or just glue regular foil down)
  • metal tweezers (look in the dollar store, or in a pinch, make your own by bending a thin strip of cardboard in half and cover with foil)
  • small binder clip

This guide was first published on Apr 01, 2020. It was last updated on Mar 18, 2020.

This page (Overview) was last updated on Mar 18, 2020.

Text editor powered by tinymce.