E-Textiles and the Maker Student: An Introduction to Sewable Electronics

Location: Room Grand Hyatt Bonham B

Explore and create Preregistration and additional fee required.

Registration code: WH216

Fee: $113 (After May 1, $123)
[Explore and create : Workshop]

Monday, June 26, 12:30–3:30 pm
Location: Room Grand Hyatt Bonham B

Mike Grusin   Angela Sheehan  
Explore ways to inspire students with STEAM activities focusing on combining crafting and technology. We’ll examine alternative ways to teach introductory electronics and programming using LilyMini sewable electronics boards. This prewired circuit will be programmed then snapped apart and implemented into an interactive e-textile project using conductive thread.

Fee: $113 (After May 1, $123)
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Laptop: PC, Mac
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Latest version of Arduino software installed - instructions for download can be found at https://www.arduino.cc/en/Main/Software

Install the LilyPad LilyMini add-on for Arduino - instructions can be found in the 'Reprogramming the LilyMini' tutorial at https://www.sparkfun.com/lilymini

Participants are encouraged to bring fabric/crafting materials to help enhance their final project during the session.

Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Wearable technologies
Grade level: 6-12
Subject area: STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: Teachers : Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity
Students : Innovative designer
Students : Computational thinker
Related exhibitors: SparkFun Electronics

Digital tote resources

Description: LilyPad LilyMini resources
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Description: LilyPad Sewable Electronics Guide download (PDF)
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Description: E-Textiles and the Maker Student slide presentation
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Description: E-Textiles ISTE Workshop Activities
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Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Adding the element of creative circuit design to an introductory electronics lesson opens up possibilities to students, which inspires creativity, agency, and investment in a finished project. This workshop will focus on using a simplified LilyPad Arduino called the LilyMini, designed and developed with educator feedback to be an easy-to-use introductory e-textile product for the classroom.

Participants will learn both hardware (conductive thread circuit building) and software (introduction to programming in Arduino) techniques, along with troubleshooting advice and project prompts for their own classroom. We will focus on prototyping a project and implementation into fabric, as well as how to successfully introduce e-textiles through small, beginner activities while building up to more complex, programmed projects.

The programming portion of the workshop will focus on these core concepts with the Arduino programming environment: digital output (blinking an LED), digital input (reading a button press), analog output (fading LEDs), and analog input (light sensor). Then we will use these skills to create an interactive, hand-crafted project based on a learning sequence in the LilyPad Sewable Electronics guidebook.

Open source resources, including downloadable templates and presentations, will be provided for educators to use as they develop their own ideas around implementation of e-textiles in a classroom setting.


1. Introduction to LilyPad Sewable Electronics system and overview of wearable technologies (20 minutes)
* What are other educators doing with e-textiles?
* How do e-textiles differ from traditional electronics education (breadboard and soldering)?
* Examples of student projects and hardware materials options will be shown and discussed.

2. Introduction to Sewing with Conductive Thread (20 minutes)
* Activity: Glowing Pin (https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/glowing-pin)

3. Introduction to Programming with LilyMini ProtoSnap (1 hour)
* Activity: Blinking LEDs–customizing light patterns with code
* Activity: Reading a button press–adding input to control LEDs
* Activity: Reading a sensor–reading data from a light sensor to create a “night light”

4. Project Brainstorming and Extensions (1 hour, 20 minutes)
* Show and Tell: project prompts and templates–designing for successful wearables
* Open construction time–participants will connect their circuit on fabric with conductive thread stitching and circuit crafting techniques
* During this time we will reflect on and discuss the projects as we create them

Supporting research

Buechley, L., and Eisenberg, M. (2008). The LilyPad Arduino: Toward Wearable Engineering for Everyone. Wearable Computing Column in IEEE Pervasive, 7(2), pp. 12-15. (Invited submission)

Kanjun Qiu, Leah Buechley, Edward Baafi, and Wendy Dubow. 2013. A curriculum for teaching computer science through computational textiles. In Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (IDC ’13). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 20-27.

Mellis, D. and Buechley L. 2011. Scaffolding Creativity with Open-Source Hardware. In Creativity and Cognition 2011.

Buechley, L. and Hill, B. M. 2010. LilyPad in the Wild: How Hardware’s Long Tail is Supporting New Engineering and Design Communities. In Proceedings of Designing Interactive Systems (DIS), Aarhus, Denmark, 199-207.

Textile Messages: Dispatches From the World of E-Textiles and Education by Leah Buechley, Kylie Peppler, Michael Eisenberg & Yasmin Kafai

Soft Circuits: Crafting e-Fashion with DIY Electronics by Kylie Peppler, Melissa Gresalfi, Katie Salen Tekinbas, & Rafi Santo

Project STITCH: STEM Teaching Integrating Textiles and Computing Holistically, (http://teachprojectstitch.blogspot.com/2016/01/what-is-project-stitch.html)

Sew Electric by Leah Buechley & Kanjun Qiu


Make: Wearable Electronics: Design, prototype, and wear your own interactive garments by Kate Hartman

The Art of Tinkering by Karen Wilkinson & Mike Petrich

Invent to Learn by Sylvia Libow Martinez & Gary Stager, Ph.D.



Mike Grusin, SparkFun Electronics

A lifelong engineer and artist, Mike Grusin has built spacecraft, pit-crewed Battlebots, made science-fiction films, run fireworks shows, birdwatched all over the world, and helped people solve more engineering problems than he can count. As the Sparkfun Education Department's embedded systems engineer, Mike designs new products, updates existing ones, creates tutorials, shoots videos, and whatever else is needed to accomplish SparkFun's mission on any particular day. In the summer Mike brings his two parrots to work, and is happiest when his workspace resembles the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Angela Sheehan, Gellacraft

Angela is the E-Textile Education Specialist at SparkFun Electronics, where she focuses on developing content around wearable technologies. She has helped facilitate over 40 e-textile workshops, including sessions at Fashion Institute of Technology, SparkFun National Tour, WEAR (Smart Fabrics), USA Science and Engineering Festival, National Science Teachers Association, STEAM Innovation Summer Institute, E21 conference, and CBS4 Girls & Science events. Angela has been working with e-textiles since 2005. From 2009 - 2013 she maintained a blog called Soft Circuit Saturdays, which documented her continuing work in e-textiles and teaching throughout New England and Maker Faires before joining the SparkFun team.

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San Antonio

June 25-28, 2017

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