During this activity, you’ll construct a working and wearable circuit. You’ll experiment with a battery, conductive thread, conductive tape and an LED to learn how to connect a circuit, and then design a way for it to work on a wrist cuff, a badge, or any other wearable item. Tools such as pliers, scissors and sewing needles will help you affix the necessary components together, and a metal snap will attach the cuff around your wrist while connecting the circuit, or turn your badge on. Watch your friends’ eyes light up, as you light up the LED on your clothing just by wearing it!
In this activity, you will experiment with building different kinds of circuits using a battery, LED, conductive tape and conductive thread. By testing and manipulating these components, you can develop a more intuitive sense of how electricity flows through a circuit. While you are designing your circuit for functionality, you are also thinking artistically about what you want your item to look like. The colors, lights, lines and shapes in this activity give it an artistic character as well as a scientific one.
To make your wearable circuit, you will need to use a few basic tools. This activity will give you the opportunity to practice using pliers and sewing needles. These small tools are important for making very fine adjustments, and knowing how to use them may come in handy in the future.
The sewing needle was invented long before the LED, and this activity seeks to utilize both older and newer technologies. Understanding different types of technology can help you think about how they can combine to make something even better. For example, the ancient art of sewing is updated by using thread that conducts electricity.
Here is a list of useful parts if you want to experiment with paper circuits at home.
The High-Low Tech group at MIT Media Lab, formerly led by Leah Buechley, has a lot of interesting materials and projects to take your sewable circuits to the next level. If you want to start messing about with Arduino computation, the LilyPad is a toolkit that allows people to build soft, fabric-based computers! They have also published a great book, Sew Electric, which is all about integrating the LilyPad into your projects.