Sunday, August 14, 2016


As a woman who has math and science anxiety, I still bristle when given a task involving these subjects.   What I realize now is that, under the right circumstances, I can get really excited when I learn something new and discover how things work. 

I am in the process of learning the Arduino coding system for Lilypad circuitry as well as creating beautiful cuffs and other wearable items that light up with LED lights, batteries and conductivethread. 

The design part is what I first love to tackle and peeks my interest the most.  I could spend hours on my drawings, choosing color combinations, carding the embroidery thread and mapping out the design.  I’ve taught myself several embroidery stitches (no fear there) in preparation for my most recent project.  I chose three LED colors to include in my cuff and diagramed the layout of lights, thread, snaps and battery.  I loved working on this hands-on project and seeing the pattern take shape and come into fruition. 

When the last thread was stitched, I couldn’t wait to snap the cuff together and see the lights light up.  Oops.  What happened?  The two red lights I had chosen were shining bright but the pink light flickered faintly and sometimes wouldn’t light up at all.  I checked my stitching circuitry and all was correct.   I then remembered that the pink lights don’t work well with warm colors.  Back to the drawing board.  I replaced the pink light and connected the LEDs with new thread.  Now none of the lights worked.  What had I don’t wrong?  I looked online for answers and couldn’t find any reason as to why my lights wouldn’t work.  I really took a good look at my stitching and circuitry and a light went off (figuratively speaking!)  I noticed that one of my short tails had wandered under another stitch which interfered with the circuit.  There it was – the problem.  As soon as I pulled the stitch out and clipped it shorter so as not to have this happen again, all the lights sparkled brightly!  Success at last.  I did notice that the one snap didn’t keep the battery stable so I added two small snaps on either side which seemed to make the connection stronger.

My next project was to create a simple t-shirt using the Lilypad.  The simple circuitry didn’t threaten me too much, but writing code – now that was another issue all together.   Thanks to my team Mishael and Sophia, I had the Arduino and Ardublock systems loaded and working on my computer.  I now had to tackle writing the code to make my three lights light up in the pattern I planned and make the buzzer play a little tune.  As the Ardublock program is visually based, I didn’t have too much of a problem working with this and really began enjoying playing around with different ideas for my light show that preceded the tune I wanted.  I couldn’t believe it, but I was really having some fun.  My design idea for the t-shirt was an old fashioned bicycle incorporating the Lilypad in the big wheel and the lights on the road leading to a buzzer in an old streetlight playing a tune.  It was quite simple to adjust the frequency for different notes, lengthen the duration the note played and upload it to Arduino.  I did have one difficulty in playing the tune.  We realized that a delay must be inserted between each note in order for the tune to play.   Once again, I was relieved and happy to see my ideas actually work and the tune play. 


Now I’m on to a more complicated solar panel powered sweatshirt.  Stay tuned for my progress and the big reveal of the design.