Playing with wearable electronics

Wearable electronics

Hobbyist electronics, including technologies or concepts like makerspaces, 3D printing, or Arduino prototype boards, are quickly finding their way into the classroom. This personal project is my first step into a new playground.

I wanted to get my feet wet in the DIY electronics movement, so I started with a simple project where I added blinking LEDs to a T-Shirt. While I thought this was a cool project, I couldn’t get my niece Robin (aka the guinea pig model) interested in the project. My original concept, copied from this Adafruit video, involved a skirt with two layers. The lights are sewn to the inner layer, then shine through the outer layer. My geeky niece wasn’t having ANY of that ‘skirt stuff,’ so we had to change direction. I tried interesting her in some two-layer shirts, but she turned her nose up at each one.



While browsing T-shirts in Ross, I had a brainwave. Instead of concealing the lights, why not make the circuit boards themselves into a design element?  Let the electronic “guts” show. Let the shirt look rough and DIY. Robin liked this idea, so after she picked a shirt I spent the next week sewing the Adafruit Gemma and Flora Neopixels in place. It took forever! I made every possible mistake, but eventually we had a working shirt. Right now it’s running a program from Adafruit, but the next time I see Robin we’ll customize the code to produce a custom blink pattern.




The Gemma controller is on the back of the shirt, where the base of Robin’s neck will be. Robin has short hair, and the Gemma has two small LEDs on board, so people will be able to verify her geek status as she’s walking away.