Wearable Tech: Bringing Theory to Life

“The Analytical Engine weaves algebraic patterns, just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves.” – Ada Lovelace

In this hands-on workshop, practical electronics and programming meet the creative worlds of sewing, embroidery, and design. 

Traditionally, handwork with textiles is thought of as “feminine,” while electronics and programming work are not. Wearable tech undoes those distinctions and stereotypes, and gives us a chance to explore what can happen when students learn and combine craft in both areas. When a variety of skills are supported and practiced in an inclusive atmosphere, surprising projects emerge. A fortune-telling book bag? A hat which makes music in response to head movements? A glove which “steals” the color of something it touches, and lights up to match? Students who previously thought “I can’t – “ whether it was to sew on a button or to program a sensor – learn that with practice and patience they can do more than they ever expected, discovering new confidence and interests. 

Participants in this workshop will experiment with sewn circuits and learn some programming while creating a wearable project that responds with lights, sound, and sensors to the wearer’s surroundings. We will use Circuit Playground Express – a microcontroller which can be either soldered or sewn into a project.  
Please note that no previous experience with sewing or programming is needed for this workshop – just playful curiosity and a little patience are required.

An additional $35.00 for materials will charged and your design can be taken home.

Session Audience 

Whole School

Session Goals 

Participants will learn how to modify a garment or accessory with sewn circuits and a programmable microcontroller, will make their own interactive project, and will take home the wearable result.

Outcomes

  • Explore the inter-relationships between traditional handwork and high-tech making.
  • Learn a little about the historical threads connecting textiles and computing, early pedagogical theory and the maker movement.
  • Learn how to sew a circuit using conductive thread.
  • Learn to program sensors, sounds, and lights with an easy-to-learn block programming language.
  • Explore the possibilities of making in non-traditional corners of the curriculum.
  • Create an interactive, original, wearable example.
  • Learn how / where to source materials for wearable tech projects.
  • Leave with resources and inspiration to support similar projects at their own schools.

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth Perry is a teacher, writer, and artist with a particular interest in making, tinkering, and play. 

At the International School of Prague, and at the American School in London, she’s helped faculty integrate technology across the curriculum and has taught computer science and art. Before moving to London and then Prague, she worked at The Ellis School in Pittsburgh, PA, and for the Online School for Girls. She’s also consulted for Google in K-12 education and outreach, been a fellow at the Studio for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie-Mellon University, taught at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, been recognized as a Google Trailblazer, and has served as a teacher ambassador for Tech Will Save Us.