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Hacks & Crafts: Exploring Maker Tech Through the Arts

Explore and create
Pre-registration required

Explore and create : Workshop

Saturday, June 22, 8:30–11:30 am
Location: 118B

Angela Sheehan  
Explore teaching electronics in a craft context. Learn to combine materials, such as paper, felt and cardboard, with tools including paper circuits, sewable circuits and micro:bit to create compelling art projects. We'll share open-source resources, activities and examples will be shared as participants create three craft tech projects.

Audience: Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers, Technology coordinators/facilitators
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Participant accounts, software and other materials: We will be utilizing Microsoft's MakeCode environment, an online programming interface for the BBC micro:bit which can be accessed through a browser with internet access.
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Maker activities and programs
Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: Career and technical education, STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: For Students:
Innovative Designer
  • Students develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.
For Educators:
  • Model and nurture creativity and creative expression to communicate ideas, knowledge or connections.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Session Objectives:

1. Build an understanding of basic circuit design and function through creating craft electronic projects.

2. Learn how instructors are encouraging students to craft and create artful, working electronic prototypes using open source resources.

3. Gain confidence in incorporating craft electronics into a classroom or learning space with success and troubleshooting tips.

In this hands-on session we will explore introductory electronics concepts by combining them with traditional crafting processes including paper crafting and sewing. Instructors will learn techniques to inspire students to use electronics as a creative medium, increasing engagement, and promoting student investment in capstone projects.

At the start of the workshop, an overview of maker technology and electronics learning tools will be provided. Learn how leveraging familiar skills from art and craft endeavors can help build confidence in prototyping with electronics and learning computer science concepts and attract a broader range of student audiences and interests.

Each mini session will introduce a new skill or concept, from basic circuits to programming concepts.

Session 1: Paper Circuits
Session 2: Exploring E-Textiles
Session 3: Crafting with micro:bit

In the opening session, participants will craft a light up greeting card with paper circuits while learning basic circuits. Building upon these skills, we will then explore prototyping a soft circuit project with sewable electronics to create a light-up plush toy. The third session will introduce programming for interactive craft projects using the BBC micro:bit. Participants will make a cardboard shadowbox night light programmed with Microsoft MakeCode that can change color and react to light levels in the room.

To wrap up the workshop, time is reserved for additional project creation and discussion. At these time, collaboration and brainstorming will be encouraged.

Participants will leave the workshop with three sample projects created during the workshop and tools to help them implement these projects in their learning spaces. We will address how to scale these sample projects up to more complex extension activities for additional learning objectives. Each participant will also have access to open source resources, including downloadable templates and presentations.


This workshop is divided into 3 hands-on sessions with an introduction presentation and follow-up discussion and open crafting time.

Introduction to maker technologies (15 minutes): What are other educators doing with craft technologies? How does differ from traditional electronics education (breadboard, soldering, robotics). Examples of student projects and hardware materials options will be shown and discussed.

Session 1 - Introduction to Paper Circuits (30 minutes): Learn the basics of an electronic circuit while creating a light up greeting card using copper tape and circuit stickers. Opportunities for followup projects and alternative materials will be discussed.

Session 2 - Exploring E-Textiles (60 minutes): Build a light up plush with a pre-programmed LilyTiny microcontroller. Experience how sewing with conductive thread can provide an alternative entry point to learn electronic concepts. Concepts covered: parallel circuits, microcontrollers, and planning/prototyping soft circuits with alligator clips before sewing a project together.

Session 3 - Crafting with micro:bit (60 minutes):
Gain hands-on experience with programming using the popular BBC micro:bit platform and Microsoft Makecode. We will explore programming concepts first through controlling blinking LEDs with a button press, then advance to using the board's built-in light sensor to create a shadowbox night light with cardboard, wax paper, and construction paper. Tips for planning a programming lesson and building resources will be provided for future exploration.

Project Brainstorming, Discussion, and Q&A (15 minutes):
How can we combine these three types of crafting into a progression of activities for the classroom?

Supporting research

Scaffolding Creativity with Open-Source Hardware. In Creativity and Cognition 2011. Buechley, L. and Hill, B. M.

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

Sew Electric by Leah Buechley & Kanjun Qiu

The Art of Tinkering by Karen Wilkinson & Mike Petrich

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

The BBC micro:bit and Microsoft:

micro:bit the First year:

More [+]


Angela Sheehan, Gellacraft

Angela is an educator passionate about combining arts with technology. She has been working with electronics since 2005 and has written over 50 online guides, the LilyPad Sewable Electronics Guidebook, and been featured in Make Magazine and HackSpace Magazine. Angela has taught over 100 electronics workshops, including sessions at SXSW Interactive, Fashion Institute of Technology, WEAR (Smart Fabrics), NSTA, and ISTE. She previously held roles as a product manager, education outreach coordinator, and e-textile expert at SparkFun Electronics, where she worked on continuing development of the LilyPad line and created supporting documentation for SparkFun's education products.

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