Monday, March 29, 2010

Penn CS department chair, faculty and students worked on e-textiles today!

This afternoon we had a small group over in our lab at Penn to give faculty and undergrads from the CS department a short intro into sewing your first circuit. After watching the instructable "how to: sew a simple circuit" everyone thought they would be done in 15 minutes -- well it took way longer.

Embroidered Potentiometers

Hannah Perner-Wilson writes about her embroidered potentiometers: Made using the zig-zag stitch on the sewing machine to sew/embroider a conductive and a resistive trace side by side. Then any conductive object can be used to bridge the contact between the traces and measure the position/distance from measuring point through the change in resistance.

In the example video a metal tea-spoon is used as a "conductive wiper finger".

Syuzi Pakhchyan describes this method in her book Fashioning Technology, by example of a linear slider potentiometer using a magnet to keep the conductive wiper finger in place.

For the original writeup see Hanna's website:

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Check out the the techno-twist on Paper Doll Kits!

NYT editorial questions value of virtual world and activities

Playtime Is Over

Published: March 26, 2010

Medford, Mass.

RECESS is no longer child’s play. Schools around the country, concerned about bullying and arguments over the use of the equipment, are increasingly hiring “recess coaches” to oversee students’ free time. Playworks, a nonprofit training company that has placed coaches at 170 schools from Boston to Los Angeles, is now expanding thanks to an $18 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Critics have suggested that such coaching is yet another example of the over-scheduling and over-programming of our children. And, as someone whose scholarly work has consistently reinforced the idea that young people need unstructured imagination time, I’d probably have been opposed to recess coaches in the past. But childhood has changed so radically in recent years that I think the trend makes sense, at least at some schools and with some students.

Children today are growing up in a world vastly different from the one their parents knew. As the writer Richard Louv has persuasively chronicled, our young people are more aware of threats to the global environment than they are of the natural world in their own backyards.

A Nielsen study last year found that children aged 6 to 11 spent more than 28 hours a week using computers, cellphones, televisions and other electronic devices. A University of Michigan study found that from 1979 to 1999, children on the whole lost 12 hours of free time a week, including eight hours of unstructured play and outdoor activities. One can only assume that the figure has increased over the last decade, as many schools have eliminated recess in favor of more time for academics.

One consequence of these changes is the disappearance of what child-development experts call “the culture of childhood.” This culture, which is to be found all over the world, was best documented in its English-language form by the British folklorists Peter and Iona Opie in the 1950s. They cataloged the songs, riddles, jibes and incantations (“step on a crack, break your mother’s back”) that were passed on by oral tradition. Games like marbles, hopscotch and hide and seek date back hundreds of years. The children of each generation adapted these games to their own circumstances.

Yet this culture has disappeared almost overnight, and not just in America. For example, in the 1970s a Japanese photographer, Keiki Haginoya, undertook what was to be a lifelong project to compile a photo documentary of children’s play on the streets of Tokyo. He gave up the project in 1996, noting that the spontaneous play and laughter that once filled the city’s streets, alleys and vacant lots had utterly vanished.

For children in past eras, participating in the culture of childhood was a socializing process. They learned to settle their own quarrels, to make and break their own rules, and to respect the rights of others. They learned that friends could be mean as well as kind, and that life was not always fair.

Now that most children no longer participate in this free-form experience — play dates arranged by parents are no substitute — their peer socialization has suffered. One tangible result of this lack of socialization is the increase in bullying, teasing and discrimination that we see in all too many of our schools.

Bullying has always been with us, but it did not become prevalent enough to catch the attention of researchers until the 1970s, just as TV and then computers were moving childhood indoors. It is now recognized as a serious problem in all the advanced countries. The National Education Association estimates that in the United States, 160,000 children miss school every day because they fear attacks or intimidation by other students. Massachusetts is considering anti-bullying legislation.

While correlation is not necessarily causation, it seems clear that there is a link among the rise of television and computer games, the decline in peer-to-peer socialization and the increase of bullying in our schools. I am not a Luddite — I think that the way in which computers have made our students much more aware of the everyday lives of children in other countries is wonderful, and that they will revolutionize education as the new, tech-savvy generation of teachers moves into the schools. But we should also recognize what is being lost.

We have to adapt to childhood as it is today, not as we knew it or would like it to be. The question isn’t whether recess coaches are good or bad — they seem to be with us to stay — but whether they help students form the age-old bonds of childhood. To the extent that the coaches focus on play, give children freedom of choice about what they want to do, and stay out of the way as much as possible, they are likely a good influence.

In any case, recess coaching is a vastly better solution than eliminating recess in favor of more academics. Not only does recess aid personal development, but studies have found that children who are most physically fit tend to score highest on tests of reading, math and science.

Friedrich Fröbel, the inventor of kindergarten, said that children need to “learn the language of things” before they learn the language of words. Today we might paraphrase that axiom to say that children need to learn the real social world before they learn the virtual one.

David Elkind is a professor emeritus of child development at Tufts University.

Friday, March 26, 2010

LilyPad Heart Hoodie

Here's a fun project to build with an Arduino LilyPad designed by imakefunthings. He used a LilyPad kit, an Open Heart Kit and snaps.

Step by step instructions are on Flickr:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Baseball is pitched Smart Textiles

Elbow injuries suffered by pitchers in Major League Baseball occur frequently and result in tens of millions of dollars in losses each season, representing the money that must be paid in salaries to pitchers who cannot perform due to injury.

To address this issue, three Northeastern University engineering students have developed a data-logging uniform shirt for pitchers that can help prevent elbow injuries while providing an electronic analysis of pitching mechanics.

See: and for more info.


This touch key cross-stitching plays like a piano. The insides connects snaps, conductive thread and LilyPad Arduino

See a demonstration at

Win the Know-It-All Bag parts from SparkFun!!

SparkFun and has joined up for a contest to give away the LilyPad Arduino parts to make your own Know-it-all Bag! Just blog how you would use the Know-it-all Bag. But hurry...the contest ends March 26th!

The Know-it-all Knitting Bag

This is an amazing use of the Arduino LilyPad created by Kalani Craig..."It knows your row number, the chart for your stitch pattern, and where you are in that stitch pattern."

See the detailed instructions on how to make your own bag at  with a link to a YouTube video. Photos are posted on Flickr

Also visit for the bakcstory of the bag.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Apple Hires Wearable Computing Engineer

by Nick Bilton NYTimes

Head-mounted apple displays

Apple has hired Richard DeVaul, a veteran of the wearable computing field and co-founder of AWare Technologies, a technology company focused on creating products for the fitness and “wellness” markets.

According to Computerworld, Mr. DeVaul will be a senior prototype scientist at Apple, presumably working on some of the technologies he discusses on his blog:

I’m an expert in signal processing and real-time statistical classification techniques. This means that I know how to make tiny computers do “thin slicing,” as popularized in Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink.” It’s all about extracting the small pieces of information that are most meaningful.

What does this work mean for us mere mortals? According to Mr. DeVaul’sLinkedIn page, he received a Ph.D. in media arts and sciences from theMassachusetts Institute of Technology and while there worked on a project called “The Memory Glasses,” which offered real-time memory support that could “improve your performance on a memory recall task by a factor of about 63 percent without distracting you.”

In other words, these fancy glasses could probably help you remember where you left your car keys.

While at M.I.T. he also worked directly with Professor Alex Pentland in theHuman Dyanmics group. This group works on the intersection of humans and technology, and using sensors and the data that these wearable devices can share, to try to predict human behavior.

Although wearable computers are not necessarily a new idea, Apple helped push the concept further into the mainstream in 2006 when it partnered withNike to introduce the Nike+ line of sneakers. This product wirelessly connects to an iPod and tracks the distance and pace of a person’s run.

There’s no telling what’s next for Apple and this market. Maybe we’ll finally see a pair of wearable iPod glasses based on a series of 2008 patents for head-mounted displays. Or maybe the company will try to create new additions to the iPhone by offering attachments and sensors. One thing’s for sure, these technologies will continue to spread into our clothing, sneakers and maybe even our glasses.

Going From STEM to STEAM: The Arts Have a Role in America's Future, Too

In education circles, STEM—the teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—has been gathering, for want of a better descriptor, “alpha” status. Not only has President Barack Obama announced a $250 million public-private initiative to recruit and train more STEM teachers, but also the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top Fund grants competition is giving bonus points for applications that stress STEM instruction.

This funding is on top of the nearly $700 million the federal government already spends on science and math education programs within the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and other agencies. Factor in what’s earmarked by individual states for STEM and a picture emerges of where a lot of tax money is rightfully going.

This generous support is being allocated in the belief (or fear) that the United States is becoming less competitive and secure, that we are losing our global-leader status in STEM fields and being eclipsed by other...

Article in Education Week

BARBIE™ - The Fashion Experience!

We visited the Exhibit last week in the Children's museum
in Indianapolis and got to make three hot dresses ourselves.
We also got to meet Barbie, the Computer Engineer:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Embedded EL wire & more materials to sample

Here's a fun site for EL wire embedded in knit or textile and EL wire in EL tape sell the inverters also.

Plug & Wear also has pressure sensitive fabric and pressure sensitive fabric tape. And they stock some different conductive fabric: like single side conductive laminate made of aluminum foil, knitted superlight conductive fabric, Velostat and other goodies
Check the bottom of the page to order a sample kit.

Check it out!

Looks like Ben's POV wristband just hit the big time! It's on the front page of both Instructables and Craftzine:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

LilyPad Wristband POV

Programmer Ben Zaitlen designed and constructed this fun use of the LilyPad 328. Ben explains the computational wristband as:
"Persistence of Vision (POV) toy using the Lilypad Arduino platform. From wikipedia, 'Persistence of vision is the phenomenon of the eye by which an afterimage is thought to persist for approximately one twenty-fifth of a second on the retina.' What this means is that, we can flash a set LEDs at specific intervals to create a static or moving image.

The electronics were first stitched onto a piece of fabric, then transferred to a wide band of elastic with velcro bands as fasteners."

For more images check out:
For step-by-step instructions see Instructables link:

Bee Puppet - Bee Sim Interactive Game

The Bee puppet is part of an interactive game for children learning about hive activity of bees, including pollination, by playing the role of the bee. The bee puppet sits velcroed on top of the glove hiding the main board, x-bee and LiPower. Three LEDs are sewn into the glove exposed on a finger (represents the flower pollen strength). The battery is hidden inside the bee body cavity sewn onto plastic mesh to help form the body shape.

The RGB sensor (game ticking clock) & 3 additional LEDs (represents bee pollen gathered) were sewn first sewn directly onto the puppet for the first prototype. However, it was quickly seen that total access was needed to the boards below the puppet, therefore the second iteration had the RGB sensor and LEDs sewn onto felt buttons, then buttoned through the bee cavity onto the bee neck and abdomen (glass beads were used to insulate the conductive thread) This design was chosen to not only allow easy access for repairs, but also to allow the glove to be interchanged with other insect puppets to examine their activity habits.

During the Bee Sim game the child/bee interacts with flowers, some with conductive material with a variety of hidden resistors beneath the felt flower center and some without conductive material (representing no pollen). After the child gathers the pollen they must return to the beehive before their energy runs out (as represented on the RGB sensor) where the pollen is dropped off and recorded/accumulated by the computer hive through the use of the xbee.

Friday, March 5, 2010