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Here is a list of Totem modules you can build using simple and readily available materials

Basic modules

These modules are great as a way to start exploring, including for children, students, beginners.

Battery module – 9v battery, marked with arrows representing the current flow direction

Double LED module – Two LEDs in series, marked with arrows representing the current flow direction

Led and resistor module – One LED and a resistor to avoid burning the LED. Marked with arrows representing the current flow direction

Motor module – Various motors

Open circuit module – To be used as a switch with aluminum tape, by covering fingers with aluminum, metal object, etc.

Blowing switch module – Blow on the little strip of aluminum tape, it touch the base and close the circuit. Derived from the open circuit module by design students during a Totem workshop, they then created a collaborative game called Soufflerie based on the idea: Soufflerie :-)

Advanced modules

These modules are best introduced when participants have created at least a couple of things with the basic modules.

Buzzer module – Make horrible, annoying sounds :-) Kids love it, but for everyone sanity it's better to use very few of them in a group workshop. They are nevertheless great for prototyping games: Prototyped games. Marked with arrows representing the current flow direction as buzzers are directional.

Tilt switch module – The circuit is off or on depending on the angle of the module. Very useful to create simple interactive gesture-based prototypes. You can combine several of them to test for different angles and movement. Internally, they are just a tube with a small metal ball, rolling against 2 connectors, so it's still a very cheap and simple component.

RGB LED module – Using a RGB LED allows to easily switch between 3 colors with different switches. Fine color mixing is not possible, but this module as been used with success in the Soufflerie prototype to help spectators to visualize the constant change of which player ares blowing. Marked with arrows representing the current flow direction

Created but not yet tested during workshop

Vibration – The same vibration micro-motors that is in your phone.

Motor speed variator – A frequent request in workshops is to slow down motors. Adding resistors or LEDs to the circuit doesn't work as below the starting voltage the motor will just stop. A solution is to add a PWM-based speed variator in the circuit. As it is a complex component by itself, with 4 connections, it is best to introduce it at a later stage, when motor speed is a roadblock.

Materials for the base

  • Foam board 3mm up to 5mm. Thicker foam board, for example 10mm, won't work well with small crocodile cables.
  • Aluminum adhesive tape


  • Glue gun to glue the components
  • Scissors


Manually: You can cut Totem bases using a rotative cutting blade. Foamwerk sell one that work well. It's relatively cheap, easy and can be done anywhere.

Laser cutter: You can also use a laser cutter. It'll allow you to cut more complex designs like the (beveled disc base. The foam retract with heat: set your laser to a very low power and use several passes to cut the foam.

Water cuter They work better than laser cutters as they don't burn the foam. But they are much rarer than laser cutters.

Mechanical cutter: Not Tested. Please help by testing with the beveled disc base and reporting here! :-)

build.txt · Last modified: 2017/12/02 21:20 by Julien Dorra