Play dough components to make a squishy circuit are shown August 29, 2013. "Squishy Circuits" are made of play dough that can carry a current and light up LEDs or move motors. The dough is useful for teaching children about basic electrical engineering concepts without the need for soldering irons or other tools. Taken for St. Thomas magazine.

University of St. Thomas Wins Eureka! Award

The University of St. Thomas has won a Eureka! Award through the Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal in the category of Education for Squishy Circuits. Squishy Circuits, created through the Playful Learning Lab at St. Thomas, helps children learn about electronics and create circuits through dough. AnnMarie Thomas, associate professor in the School of Engineering and Opus College of Business, and director of the Playful Learning Lab, along with many St. Thomas undergraduates, spearheaded the project.

"It is a great feeling to watch my students, and our lab, get attention for their work," Thomas said. "The Eureka! Award gives us a great excuse to pause and celebrate all of their hard work. ... I am just so incredibly proud of the amazing students I get to work with."

The 2015 Eureka! Awards highlighted 26 Minnesota organizations that bring "new ideas to the table to better serve their clients, employees and communities." This is the second year Eureka! Awards have been distributed.

Squishy Circuits began in the Playful Learning Lab in 2009. The circuits, made with homemade conductive and insulating dough, can light LED lights, run motors and even create sound  so children using Squishy Circuits can learn about series and parallel circuits. Squishy Circuit's website includes information on how to make the dough, build the circuits and also has the publications from the first students working on the project, including Sam Johnson '12, who created the original recipe.

Squishy Circuits has grown in leaps and bounds since. Matt Schmidtbauer '13 played a particularly important role in that growth. Schmidtbauer started, and still runs, as CEO and president, the Squishy Circuits Store. He has sold Squishy Circuits kits to more than 20 countries around the world.

"Although no longer a student researcher for Squishy Circuits, I continue to be a proponent of the program and am a firm believer that learning can be accomplished through playing and self-discovery," Schmidtbauer wrote in 2014.

Squishy Circuits also was presented by St. Thomas students at the first National Maker Faire in Washington, D.C., in early June, and by students at the American Society for Engineering Education conference in Seattle, where Squishy Circuits was shown to PK-12 teachers.

Thomas said she hopes more people will continue to try Squishy Circuits and support Schmidtbauer in building his company, so that Squishy Circuits will be more accessible to people everywhere. She said they soon plan to unveil new products, projects and curricula.

Read the Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal's article on Squishy Circuits.