Technology

Button Joy

Button Joy launches today!!!  It’s a super cool product that uses Cloudstitch to drive it. Since it’s customizable, I am excited to see the creative ways people will choose to use it.

Here’s an example of how it works: Operation Dad Pager

Step 1: Order a Button

Order a button and choose what you want to happen when you push it. You can change these actions from our website later!

Step 2: One Minute Setup

When the button arrives, connect it to your local WiFi network.

Step 3: Push the Button

Each time you push, we’ll perform the action you’ve configured. For charitable contributions, we confirm over SMS before charging your card.

If you get one, please comment here to let me know what you did with it.

Categories: 21st Century Skills, Innovation, Technology | Leave a comment

Little Pig’s Safe House

Three Pigs Safe Room

I decided to make a safe room for the three little pigs.  When the wolf finally figures out how to blow down the brick house, they need somewhere to go.  This room is under the brick house and it is totally secure.  I started with a leftover Starbucks gift box, scraps of colored paper and cardboard, glue, copper tape, Chibi lights, a coin cell battery, Sharpee pen, and duct tape.  I also printed a tiny pig portrait from the Internet.

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First I mounted the Chibi lights on the back wall of the room.  Chibis are tiny LED stickers.  Each one has a positive and negative side. When place on a copper tape circuit they will light up.  

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Next I created a a switch for the lights on the outside of the box using red duct tape.

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Finally I constructed the furniture, the refrigerator, the books, and the locked door with the scraps of paper.  Instead of working with patterns, I decided I was going to make myself go through the mental gymnastics of trying to figure out how to construct each piece of furniture in the room by cutting, folding, and gluing the paper.  

When the glue on them had dried, I glued them into the room.

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I didn’t face any big challenges.  After I gathered the materials, it all seemed to come together pretty easily.  

 

Thinking about how to construct each piece of furniture was really the only challenge.  I didn’t want the furniture to be made out of separate pieces of paper so I tried to cut each one into one piece of paper when was then folded and glued in sort of an origami fashion to create the final piece.  It was kind of like solving a puzzle.  I think my experience with dismantling cardboard packaging to save the cardboard helped a lot.  

Categories: Art, Circuits, Engineering, Technology | Leave a comment

Left Over Larry

I am going to call my project Larry Leftovers because I made it out of leftovers from other projects.  I started with an empty crayon box, a tuft of orange wool, a red pom-pom, two blue LEDs, two 2023 coin cell batteries, and a battery holder with an on-off switch.  I used a glue gun, needle nose pliers, hole punch, and tape.  The parts were in different places in my house (sewing room, garage, and kitchen.  I gathered everything together on the kitchen table and completed it in about twenty minutes. After gathering everything, I didn’t have to get up to find something.  But this involved planning.  In the classroom, I think all teachers do this when they plan a project – they think ahead about what materials to have available so they won’t have to go get something after the kids get started.  The kitchen table is one of my favorite places to work because it is well lit by a big bay window and I can listen to music while I work.  At school I have good lighting (unfortunately no windows) but no music.  Hmmm, should I get a little radio?  

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I used a couple of tricks I like with the LEDs.  First, I use a black Sharpee to mark the negative lead so that when I bend it, I can still identify it.  Then I take the needle nose pliers to pinch each lead and wrap it into an “eye” so that I can thread wires through them.  This eliminates the need to solder – an advantage when working with little kids.

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I put the coin cell batteries in the battery holder and attached the wires to the positive and negative leads of the LEDs.

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 I used a hole punch to punch holes in the crayon box and drew eyes and mouth on the box.  I glued the orange fleece on the inside of the box using the hot glue and reinforced it with tape.

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I glued the red pom-pom on the front of the box and voila, Larry Leftovers!

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Categories: Circuits, Engineering, Technology | Leave a comment

Lego Pen Holder

This project started when my friend and colleague, Shahwar,  sent me a link to an article on The Tinkering Studio’s blog, Sketchpad.  We had been talking about ways to expand our lower school robotics program and she wondered if we could print some pen holders to attach to our EV3s.  The article explains the iterations the Tinkering Studio staff went through to create an adjustable pen holder to attach to a Lego brick.  It could be used on builds with the WeDo hub or the EV3 motor.  

I downloaded the file for the Set Screw Version of the pen holder from Thingiverse and loaded it to the Up printer we use in the lower School Lab.  They printed perfectly.  Next came the step of cutting the threads, or tapping, the hole for the tightening screw.  This will allow users to use any drawing tool that is the same size or smaller than a Crayola marker.  My husband, Russ, never fails to have just the right tool.  He found the ¼” tap and tap handle and we easily drilled the threads into the 3D printed pen holders.  
Next step: Challenge my students to attach the pens and program the EV3s to draw geometric shapes on large sheets of paper taped to the floor.

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Categories: 3D Printing, Art, Engineering, Robotics, Technology | Leave a comment

Lily Pad Arduino Doll Fleet

These dolls were created to introduce students to coding in Arduino.  Their construction in similar to the Arduino Ugly Doll (see earlier post for details on this doll), but their components are slightly different.  Each one has two white LEDs sewn onto the eyes, one RGB LED sewn onto the nose, and a piezo sewn onto the mouth.  They each have a LilyPad Arduino and a battery holder sewn onto the back.  

I made a pattern out of scrap paper and cut the bodies and face parts out of different colored fleece.

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Next I sewed all the facial features onto the front piece of each doll.  Then I sewed the back piece to one side of the doll so that the doll could open like a book.

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The LilyPads, battery holders, LEDs and piezos were sewn on by hand using conductive thread.  Below you see the faces.

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This picture shows the circuitry created with conductive thread.  The LEDs and the piezo are each attached to different pins on the LilyPad Arduino.  A piece of fleece was sewn between two crossed threads and on top of the circuitry on the back of each doll to prevent short circuits.

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Here is my hand-drawn circuit map.

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These two diagrams of the circuitry were created by my friend, Tom Gallo, using a program called Fritzing.

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The seam around the doll was completed and the dolls were stuffed with polyfill.  Here are the eight dolls lined up and ready to go to school.  

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The students will write code in Arduino to control the blinking of the LED eyes, the blinking and color of the RGB nose, and the melodies and tones played by the piezo mouth.

Categories: Arduino, Circuits, eTextiles, Technology | Leave a comment

LED Painting

This project could be completed with any kind of 2-D (more on that concept later) art work.  The basic idea is a flat piece of art with LEDs behind or on top of the work.

For the first one, I painted a simple watercolor which included white dots and tree trunks.  The white was preserved with masking fluid which was rubbed off after the paint had dried.  

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Tracing paper was placed over the painting to mark where the LEDs would go.

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The circuit was drawn on foam core, using the tracing paper as a guide for the placement of the LEDs.  

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A parallel circuit made of copper tape was placed on the foam core the the LEDs were soldered onto the tape.  Note the break in the tape which will form the pressure switch.  

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The tracing paper was used again to mark the placement of the switch on the back of the watercolor painting.

switch

Foam dots with double-sided adhesive were placed around the LEDs and the switch to hold the watercolor painting away from the foam core. The dots were ¼” inch tall.

spacers     circuit-closeup

The original plan was for the battery to be between the two layers, but I realized this would make it difficult to change the battery when the power was depleted.  So I sliced through the foam care and threaded the tape through the slots to the back.

battery-cutthrough     battery

When the pressure is placed on the painting in the location of the switch, the circuit is completed and the LEDs light up.  When the pressure is released the LEDs go out.  The thickness of the watercolor paper and the layers of paint made it difficult to see the light unless the painting was viewed in a dimly lit room.  A friend suggested cutting tiny holes in the paper.  But I started to think about the quality of watercolor paper and how mistakes can be removed by scrubbing, sanding, or scraping.  So this 2D work of art really had a bit of 3D depth to it, which might allow me to remedy the light problem.  I took a little Exacto knife and scraped away layers of paint and paper until I was satisfied with the thickness of the paper over each LED.

scrape-paper     After doing this, the LEDs easily shone through the paper even in a well-lit room.  

finished

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LED Felt Hat

LED Felt Hat

This hat is one of those wandering projects that starts out with one experiment and leads down a meandering lane called “What if I try this?”

After creating an LED eTextile card with one LED on it, I wondered how many LEDs I could actually add on a 2032 coin cell battery.  I texted my awesome colleague, Shane Diller, and asked him because he knows everything about electrical circuits.  He didn’t know.  But he did suggest using a parallel circuit if I was going to experiment.  So I decided I was willing to sacrifice some LEDs and a little time to finding out.  I soldered five white LEDs to some copper tape.  I tested them out with a 2032 battery and they worked just fine.

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Next I taped five more lights to the circuit and tried again.  They all lit.  I found a two coin cell battery holder with an on/off switch and taped it to the end of the circuit.  I put two 2032 batteries in it and all the LEDs lit up very brightly.  

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So I went ahead and soldered the LEDs and the battery holder to the copper tape.  

 

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It looked great.  Now what?  

 

I took a nap, went for a walk, worked on a paper I’m writing for a class.  Then I thought about hats.  

 

I had some multi-colored felt that I had made last summer out of wool bats given to me by my friend Sonja.  I had added bits of turquoise silk that my friend Sidney had given me.  It has a wonderful soft texture but the shape and size had not suggested anything to me.  It would be perfect for a pill box hat.  And I just happened to have a pattern.

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I pieced the top of the hat to take advantage of the embedded silk.  It made a nice contrast to the dull colors of the felt.

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The hat has a stabilizing foundation of heavy weight Pellon interfacing.  This makes the hat keep its shape even when it is not being worn.  My original plan was to line the hat with some royal blue polyester fleece I had on hand.  But that idea changed later.

Constructing the the hat was a pretty quick process.  There are only two pieces and two seams.  I took the soldered circuit and pinned it to the outside of the hat.  

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I decided it would be fun to use turquoise sparkly DMC embroidery floss to sew the copper tape to the hat.  I used a herringbone stitch.

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Next I decided to add ceramic beads in between each LED.  I had made these beads last summer with clay and glaze Sonja gave me.  

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At this point, I decided I didn’t like the royal blue lining idea.  We made a quick trip to JoAnn Fabrics where I found some turquoise satin.  Much better.

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I used a scrap felt to make a pocket on the back for the battery holder.

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And voila!  The finished hat!

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Categories: Art, Circuits, eTextiles, Technology | Leave a comment

eTextile Holiday Card

LED Holiday Card

Here is the process I used to create an e-textile holiday card with LEDs sparkling in the winter sky.  I started with scraps of fabric left over from various projects.  This included several cotton prints, white felt, and some heavy interfacing.  The interfacing acted as a stabilizer for the card.

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I sewed several pieces of fabric onto the interfacing to create a snowy landscape.

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Using a decorative embroidery stitch, I sewed across the top of the white felt hills.

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Then I glued on tiny little fabric triangles to represent evergreen trees.

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To cover the raw edge, I sewed bias tape around the edges.

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Then came my new adventure – soldering.  I didn’t even know we had a soldering iron until my husband brought it in from the garage and showed me how to use it.  To create the circuit for the LEDs, I used size 22 coated wire, solder, flux, a soldering iron, six white LEDs, and a 2032 coin cell battery.  I used a wire cutter/stripper to cut the wire and strip off the plastic coating and needle nose pliers to help bend the wire.

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Here is my first attempt at soldering.  I am embarrassed at how messy it is, but it works.

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Next I sewed the circuit on the back of the fabric card, cutting tiny holes for the LEDs.  I stitched around each one to secure it to the fabric. The little pentagon of white felt is insulating two wires that were crossing and creating a short circuit.  

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I sewed the battery holder to the back of the card and slipped in the coin cell battery.  The battery holder has an on/off switch so that the lights are not always on.  The final card is shown below.  

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LilyPad Arduino Vest – An Electrifying Journey

I am a lifelong fiber artist.  I have fond memories of sewing doll clothes and knitting tiny blankets when I was a small child.  That love for the feel of cloth and yarn in my hands has never left me and has been a source of joy to me over the years.  So it was with great excitement that I discovered the work of  Leah Buechley.  I was lucky enough to visit her space in the MIT Media Lab about six years ago.  She was not there that day, but there were all the familiar tools that had beckoned to me through the years: fabric, yarn, knitting machines, looms, embroidery hoops.  And something else: little circuit boards and wires that, at that time, puzzled me.

Earlier this year  a colleague in the Bryan Innovation Lab at the Steward School handed me a small package and said, “See what you can do with this.”  Inside the package was one of those circuit boards, the latest iteration of Leah’s circuit board, called the LilyPad Arduino, and a cone of conductive thread.

Fellow fiber artists will understand the thrill of that moment: raw fabric or yarn, waiting to be born into a form created by my imagination and skill.

I turned to Leah Buechley’s book, Sew Electric, and to several websites including the LilyPad Arduino website and the Sparkfun site.  Leah’s Turn Signal Biking Jacket also gave me clear instruction on the process I needed to follow to constuct my project.

The materials I used were medium weight linen, medium fusible interfacing, sewing thread, conductive thread, and embroidery thread.

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The tools used were an iron (to fuse interfacing), scissors, sewing needles, a needle threader, and a sewing machine.

The hardware needed for the project included a LilyPad Arduino, a power source (battery holder), LilyPad LED‘s, an on/off switch, and a LilyPad speaker.  You will also need a FTDI board and a USB to mini USB cable (to connect the LilyPad to the FTDI board and  your computer.)  This enables you to upload code to the LilyPad.  Once uploaded, you can detach the FTDI board and your LilyPad will run the code.

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I should mention here that although I love the elegant look of all the LilyPad products, I have started ordering the components for sewable projects from Hong Kong-based companies listed on Ebay.  These parts cost about a fourth of the price and shipping takes about four times as long.  They are not as pretty, but I have found them to be reliable.

This was my first sewable electronics project and it took me on a journey that was both informative and humbling.  Constructing the vest was easy.  Adding the electronic components and making them work, not so much.  I started by machine sewing embellishments that I thought would augment the electronics I attached by hand.  But I soon discovered that things would not work out as I initially planned.

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I sewed on the electronic parts using conductive thread and connecting them with chain stitch.  I stopped after each addition to run a test to make sure everything was working. The plan was all in my head, despite the fact that every resource I had consulted had stressed the importance of sketching out your circuit traces before beginning construction.

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I hit a point where the LED’s were no longer lighting and I hadn’t even gotten to the speaker.  Time to ask for help.  I walked over the Bryan Lab and consulted my colleague, Shane Diller.  He got out a multimeter – oh, yes, that was kind of mentioned in the resources I had consulted.

He patiently explaining Ohm’s law to me and showed me how to test the conductive thread in my project to see how much current was flowing at different points.  We concluded that the chain stitch was creating too much resistance to allow sufficient current to light the LED’s.

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Many picked-out stitches and much simple straight stitching later, everything was back in order.  Time to add the speaker.  Two of the LED’s on the front of the vest were removed and the speaker was put in their place.

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Finished vest with FTDI board uploading code.

Some final hand stitched embroidery was added and it was time for the light and sound show.  See a future blog post to learn about the coding involved in making this vest “perform.”

 

Categories: Arduino, Art, Innovation, Technology | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Blendspace – Build a Canvas of Resources to Share

BlendSpace is a tool which enables you to gather and curate resources and assessments to share with students and/or colleagues. It should be created on a computer, but it can be shared to either a computer or mobile device.
BlendSpace.com Instructions
o Create a BlendSpace account at BlendSpace.com. Teacher and student accounts are available.
o Log in to your account.
o Click on + New Lesson button
o Give your canvas a title. Click OK.
Search for content within the web tools on the far right. Click on each icon and enter a search term. When you find what you want, simply drag it to one of the tiles on your Blendspace canvas. When you finish one row of tiles, click on “+ Add row” to increase the size of your canvas.
For any of the web based resources, you can also open another tab in your browser and perform a search. Copy the url of the resource you want to use and paste it into the search bar. You can rearrange the tiles at any time. If you have a wiki, blog, or Google doc you would like to include, paste that url into the search bar.
The source options are:
1. YouTube videos –click on the YouTube icon on the far right and enter a search term in the YouTube Search box.
2. Websites and web images – Click on the on the far right and enter a search term.
3. Vimeo videos – Click on the on the far right and enter a search term.
4. Flickr images – Click on the on the far right and enter a search term.
5. Educreation videos — Click on the on the far right and enter a search term.
6. Gooru – Click on the on the far right and enter a search term.
7. Web pages – Click on the on the far right and enter a search term.
8. Media or files – Click on the on the far right and enter a search term.

For the next two sources you will need to link these accounts so they will be accessible from BlendSpace. To do this: Click on the icon for DropBox or Google Drive and click “Connect.” Enter your login credentials. The content in these accounts will appear and be ready to drag onto your canvas.
9. DropBox – Click on the on the far right and enter a search term.
10. Google Drive – Click on the on the far right and enter a search term.
11. Settings – Click on the to access your settings. This will allow you to enable or disable comments and track the use of your Blendspace canvas (number of views, length of views, likes, dislikes, comments, help requests, and quizzes).
12. Files from your DropBox or Google Drive When you link these accounts they will be accessible from BlendSpace. To do this Click on the icon for DropBox or Google Drive and click “Connect.” Enter your login credentials. The content in these accounts will appear and be ready to drag onto your canvas.
Test and Quizzes
1. Double click on any tile to add text.
2. Hover over a tile and click on Add Quiz to add a quiz. Create a multiple choice question. Designate the correct answer. Click on “+Add question” to add more questions.
Content is automatically saved.
To share your BlendSpace, click on the Share button. You will have three options :
1. A link to share- When you share the link, it can be typed into the browser or a mobile device or computer or email it to the recipients (this includes an iPad cart email address).
2. An embed code to add your Blendspace to a blog or wiki
3. A QR code to share – This can be scanned by a mobile device with a QR reader.

When the Blendspace canvas is opened on a computer or mobile device, click on one of the tiles to begin. Then use the arrows on the right and left to navigate through the tiles. The user will have access to the content placed on each of the tiles.
Some tile content can be opened on an iPad in Pages and Keynote. If so, they are now offline and can be viewed without Internet connection. If opened in Explain Everything the content could be transformed into a screencast.

Categories: 21st Century Skills, Technology | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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