Sunday, December 19, 2010

Make your own Tron Bag!

"Tote your Thinkpad and port your Apple in style with a custom TRON-inspired laptop bag tutorial. With a little soldering and sewing skills you can have your own light up satchel, sure to impress geeky friends."  Go to for a detailed tutorial by collaborators ladyada and Becky Stern on how to make your own el wire bag from an old laptop bag.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Less expensive battery holder for LilyPad Arduino

From Leah: A cheaper battery holder option for LilyPad Arduino projects.  Holds 2 3volt coin cell batteries.  Won't last as long as the AAA or LiPo batteries, but a good option for smaller projects where space/cost is an issue...

Skirt Full of Stars - Motion reactive skirt with fiber optics

Imagine a skirt that sparkles with a rainbow of colors as you walk, dance, and twirl. The Skirt Full of Stars is an interactive, illuminated garment using the LilyPad Arduino platform, designed to respond to and accentuate the movements of its wearer.

e-Textile Workshop Sells Out at the Record Breaking Grace Hopper Celebration 2010

"The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI) announced a record-breaking turnout of 2147 attendees representing 29 countries for the first day of the 10th Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. The world’s largest gathering of women in computing in industry, academia, and government, the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) is a five-day technical conference designed to bring the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront. Themed  “Collaborating Across Boundaries,” GHC is taking place in Atlanta, Georgia, September 28 – October 2, 2010 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta." (excerpt from press release

A conductive tape star is born!
While Grace Hopper was at an all time high for attendance, on September 30th e-textiles held a sold out workshop!  We had 30 people sign up for the "e-Textiles the Softer Side of Computing" workshop, however a number of attendees didn't show, but we had an extremely excited group of women on a waiting list that dropped in early on the off chance they could sit in...but instead  were able to participate in the hands on LilyPad circuit workshop!

Gotta love buttons!
The 30 attendees were treated to various materials when they entered the room, from a variety of cloth switches, pre made projects, book of conductive fabric and postcards with websites and ordering information that disappeared before the workshop even began...all of this was extremely exciting to many who were first timers.  Just the thought of washable electronic elements sewed into clothing was mind boggling!

The panel and workshop was led by Ann-Marie Horcher from Nova Southeastern University, and myself which included a presentation on the importance of e-Textiles within the computing community ... then the fun began ... circuit building in a wide array of personal objects. The workshop ran smoothly with everyone helping out, talking about designs, how to complete the circuit in their project and everyone left with a working circuit.  A fantastic workshop for a celebration of fascinating women!! lit!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Modkit Visits Bloomington!

Modkit uses a Scratch like interface
Modkit is a web-based graphical programing environment for the LilyPad Arduino that allows you to drag and drop blocks of code to create programs for physical devices without worrying about making syntax errors. It uses an interface which was heavily inspired by Scratch and built using HTML5 web standards. Since the programming environment is internet based, all your work will be saved online, and available from any computer.  The Modkit was designed to not only use the new simple LilyPad Arduino (for youth), but other arduino boards as well.

The immediate feedback was a huge hit!

Two days were used to plan and train a team from IU's Creativity Lab, who then started a 4 day workshop on October 25th at the Boys and Girls Club on the Modkit in the the club's computer lab.  Each daily session lasted 2 hours and covered basic LilyPad programming like hooking up the LilyPad with alligator clips and programming blinking lights,  musical notes in a speaker and the RGB sensor.

After playing with the Modkit for several days, the youth planned out the designs for their LilyPad projects. Projects included a series of LEDs in a hat that would light in a rotating manner, a backpack that would light and play music when the backpack was worn, a purse with blinking & solid lit LEDs, another purse with rotating LEDs on a flower design and another purse that used the temperature sensor to change the lights behavior.

Solid and Flashing LEDs!
Lit circuits always bring smiles but lit LilyPads seem to bring even bigger smiles! This recently finished black purse was our first LilyPad project to be completed with the Modkit.  It contained three LEDs, two were programmed to be solid and one flashed a programmed pattern.  The battery pack was purposefully hidden on the inside of the bag so only the LilyPad and LEDs were displayed on the outside. 

Warm = Flashing LEDs

Cold = Solid LEDs
The peace sign jean purse took a different approach.  The designer decided to display the battery holder yet hide the conductive thread stitches on the inside of the purse.  The light behavior is designed to be a visual thermostat, controlled by an analog temperature sensor sewn to the LilyPad. The LilyPad was then programmed to flash the two LEDs when in warm conditions while the two LEDs will stay lit under cold temperatures. 

Fall e-Textiles at the Boys and Girls Club

This fall semester saw some new projects completed at the Boys and Girls Club in Bloomington due to a new group of club members.  Every Monday and Wednesday the youth attended the e-Textile Club to work on projects.  The biggest hit of the season were the Halloween buckets and bags! Youths first designed parallel circuits on paper, then using traditional LEDs to sew circuits using curled LEDs typically for the eyes.  (Many are excellent LED curlers now : -)
Many youth made the bags for their own trick-or-treating candy collecting while another made a bag for his little sister to use...what a thoughtful big brother!  It was discovered later that some were even used to pass out candy to neighborhood trick or treaters and were a huge hit!

After the influx of Halloween projects the youth were excited to have a variety of shaped beads brought in to play with.  They quickly decided  to make circuit bead necklaces, ankle and wrist bracelets.  The bead projects could be completed in one day so they could make them for friends, teachers and relatives while still learning the basics of circuitry.

The semester also saw the return of the favorite circuit t-shirt like this one with a smiling Woodstock on it...always a hit!  The designer carefully marked where she strategically wanted the LilyPad LEDs to be placed on Woodstock to highlight his eyes and smile.  The semester ended too soon for the e-Textile club they wanted the club to meet 5 days a week not just 2 : -)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Book: Sewing School: 21 sewing projects kids will love to make

As we work with youth in elementary school, we're finding many don't have the basic sewing skills or knowledge about sewing, materials and procedures.

This is where the book Sewing School can help.  It nicely lays out many sewing basics from beginning to end like tying a knot, to threading a needle, various stitches, materials, about sewing in groups, using patterns (and includes patterns) and showcases youth aged 6-13 through out the book. 

Additionally, Sewing School shows a number of simple projects that could be made and are being made by youth.  One of the strongest components of the book are the quotes from the youth, especially if youth will be looking through it for guidance...they'll see how much someone else enjoyed it and feel that they can also complete the project.

This is the look-inside link at amazon:

NSF Webcast Highlights E-Textiles and MIT's High-Low Tech Team

Press Release 10-230
NSF Celebrates Computer Science Education Week 2010
NSF-funded programs like GLITCH and E-Textiles make it cool to compute and may inspire the next Bill Gates

Photo of a circular array of sewable electronic components forming an interactive embroidery.
High-Low Tech research group seeks to engage diverse people in developing their own technologies.
Credit and Larger Version
December 7, 2010

View a webcast highlighting two NSF programs that engage students in computer science.

Imagine a jacket that lights up. With directional arrows programmed into the fabric, a bicyclist can use her jacket to alert traffic when she's turning. The jacket is an example of e-textiles, a techology that is drawing more girls to computer science through an innovative program at MIT. Meanwhile at Georgia Tech, high school students are hired to test and debug computer games, a way of bringing diverse students to computer science.

These inspired programs are unfortunately not typical. American information technology and software companies dominate the world marketplace, yet there is a gaping hole in formal computer science education. For K-12 students, computer science education is practically nonexistent. The United States lacks an adequate pipeline to feed world class computer science at the university level with the number and diversity of students needed to address societal challenges.

To recognize the critical role of computing and computer science education in the 21st century, Congress declared Dec. 5-11, 2010, as Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek).

In a Dec. 7 webcast, the National Science Foundation (NSF) highlighted two NSF-funded programs that aim to fill this gap and engage populations of students not typically drawn to computer science.

Amy Bruckman of Georgia Tech, along with Ph.D. candidate Betsy DiSilvo and former student James Bowland-Gleason, describes GLITCH, the Georgia Tech program that uses video games as a way for the high school students to "break open" the games and look at them as a piece of technology.

Leah Buechley and Emily Lovell of MIT's Media Lab report on their success at the forefront of teaching information technologies to the next generation of female computer scientists. They discuss how their High-Low Tech research group explores the integration of high and low technology from cultural, material, and practical perspectives to engage diverse groups of people in developing their own technologies. E-Textiles at MIT, for example, has captured the imagination and honed the computational skills of girls.

CSEdWeek representative Cameron Wilson of the Association for Computer Machinery provides perspective on why this week is important to his industry and to America's competitive edge. Other countries have stepped up their efforts with computer science education, and several countries, including Canada, Israel, New Zealand, Australia and some Asian countries have implemented a comprehensive computer science curriculum.

The notion that only future computer scientists or information technology (IT) professionals need training in computer science is no longer true. Outside of the IT industry, knowledge of computer science and computer programming is becoming a necessary skill for many professions, including those in science and technology, as well as careers in marketing, advertising, journalism and the creative arts.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Circuit Quilt Premiers at the Annual Boys & Girls Club Art Show

Tonight was the opening of the annual BGC Art Show at the Bloomington City Hall.  Over 50 pieces of art were shown and it was also the unvailing of the Circuit Quilt, which included 16 circuit quilt squares made by youth who attended the Creativity Labs summer workshop.
The quilt project was met with enthusiasm by everyone at the art show as they entered the front door.  As parents, children and teachers interacted with the quilt, they were amazed that the squares lit up!  Children wanted to make another one this summer, parents wanted their children in the current e-textile club and workshops and there was a real buzz about the combination of science and the arts!

 Matisse, the BGC Art Director, and myself display the quilt
 Additionally, there was a lot of excitement about the bracelets the e-textiles club is currently making at the BGC as well. Unfortunately, we are in the last week of the club before the holidays, but I have a feeling many will be requesting the return of the bracelet in the upcoming spring semester.  Several mothers even commented to their child that they wanted one for themselves for the holidays!  (See the LilyPond for instructions on the bracelets)

The quilt is still undergoing it's finishing touches: like embroidering on the green trim, and having the youth at the club add yarn ties to the square intersections.  After a short display in our offices, the quilt will be presented to the club to hang an a wall where the children can easily press the push button switches to light up each circuit.

I wanted to add a special thanks to Kara, our lab assistant, who really came through in getting the quilt to this point so quickly for the art show.  Also thanks to our summer workshop circuit team: Aviyona, Clay, Ethan, Gabriel, Griffin, Justin, Lennon, Luca, Makayla, Melisha, Phoebe, Rakia, Ron, Sage, Samari and Stephanie for making their first sewn circuits so beautifully!