Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Modkit Coders and LilyPad Stitchers "Create, Innovate, Inspire" at South Fayette School District

Earlier this month, the Creativity Labs (Sophia, Naomi & Diane) returned to the South Fayette School District in the Pittsburgh, PA area to provide another e-textile professional development workshop to follow up on the one conducted in Summer 2013. The district is gearing up to do a LilyPad Arduino project with its entire fourth grade (plus selected MS Art & Home Ec), as a part of its innovative STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) Studio, so all of South Fayette's fourth-grade teachers attended, as well as its STEAM, Art, Home Ec teachers and technology coordinators. The workshop also shared e-textiles for the first time with teachers from two of South Fayette's partner schools: Fort Cherry and Manchester Academic Charter School.

Teachers at the South Fayette e-textile PD work on their LilyPad projects.

The e-textile project taught at the workshop involved the ProtoSnap LilyPad Development Simple, a kit that includes a LilyPad Simple sewable microcontroller, four sewable LEDs, and a sewable buzzer that plays musical notes. Teachers sewed these components with conductive thread onto a t-shirt specially created for this purpose.

One teacher's LilyPad project. The orange flower with the buzzer on it has snaps so the buzzer can be detached for washing. This is one of the many innovative ideas that emerged during the workshop.
For the coding, teachers used the visual block-based programming interface Modkit Micro, which makes programming various Arduino microcontrollers easy and kid-friendly. The teachers used Modkit Micro to program the LilyPad, which told their LEDs to flash in various patterns and their buzzers to play musical tunes.
A teacher customizes her shirt with beautiful decorations that also serve to disguise the electronic components.
The "Create, Innovate, Inspire" slogan was a very apt choice for a shirt that would feature e-textiles. Making an e-textile project necessarily involves creating. Every one of the Creativity Labs' e-textile workshops has prompted innovations to emerge, whether in the way the electronics are used, in the way the participants personalize their work, or in their Modkit programs. And we also hope that these projects inspire people to become more interested in computing and electronics. It's wonderful that South Fayette, Fort Cherry, and Manchester are sharing e-textiles with their students, and we at the Creativity Labs are excited to be a part of this creativity, innovation, and inspiration!

Once again, we thank Aileen Owens, Director of Technology and Innovation for South Fayette, who coordinated this amazing workshop,  to all of the wonderful, creative participants for their enthusiasm and thoughtful participation and to the school district's administrative officials who took time from their busy schedule to stop in and lend support to this tremendously ambitious endeavor.