Magic Lanterns

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A magic lantern is a light that projects an image onto a screen. This activity walks through the process of creating a magic lantern, the patterns it projects, and the programming it requires to make the Pico Cricket (micro-controller) change the light colors. This activity could be extended into a two- to three-hour workshop. Pico Cricket is required. No programming experience necessary, this activity is for beginners. This activity uses an older Pico Cricket, so adjustments may be necessary if using a newer version. The What Else? section provides links for background information about magic lanterns, scratch animation, and controlling lights with Pico Cricket

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
2 to 4 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
Over $20 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • Pico Cricket kit
  • mini-lights
  • wire
  • aligator clips
  • 1-inch thick insulation foam
  • scissors or craft knife
  • shoe box or similar sized box
  • translucent paper (tracing paper)
  • transparent paper (or plastic)
  • cardboard tube from toliet paper or paper towels
  • tape
  • glue


  • Physical Sciences
    • Electricity and Magnetism
      • Electric Circuits
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Light and Optics
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process

Informal Categories

  • Electronics


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • use keyboard
  • use mouse
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Links STEM to other topics of interest such as arts and humanities
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, 0087813