Monday, March 24, 2014

Making Tilt Switches: Intro to E-Textiles

After our leap into LED wearables with the candle bows, I thought it might be best to take a step back to the basics. Last month, I went to the Eliot School in Jamaica Plan for an Introduction to E-Textiles Class.  If you haven't ever been to the Eliot School, I highly recommend it if you are looking for something a bit out of the ordinary in crafting and hobby classes. What I also love is they do one day weekend classes, in case the weekly driving commitment is too much.

Our goal of the class was to make a battery and bulb experiment. Don't know that is? Neither did I but it didn't involve hand sewing so I was pretty happy about that. I also thought it was funny that we were using the telephone wire that I bugged the AT&T guy to give us when I was younger for my wire bracelet business.

Here is my video explanation:

View from the back

Tilt switch housing
LEDs with compactors

Tilt switch: The fish weight covered in steel wool and some electrical tape housed in a punched water bottle top would hit the screws to the left and the right completing the circuit and making the LEDs on the other side light up.    It looked like a fuzzy Christmas bulb. I can't imagine trying to wear something like this but a simple on/off switch can replace this for adding to clothing and it can be done on a smaller scale.

Materials List:

Electronic Parts From Tayada Electronics

Battery Holder SKU: A-746

Red LED SKU: A-705

Yellow LED SKU: A-1583

Large Capacitor SKU: A-4525

Disk Capacitor SKU: A-4022

#22 Solid Wire SKU: A-49999

Batteries & Tools from Harbor Freight:

AA Batteries Item #92404

Hole Punches Item#3838 (For LED & scew holes)

Voltage meter (optional) but a great trouble shooter if circuit doesn't work
telephone wire

Hardware From McMaster:

QTY Item

2 10/32 x 2” Zinc Plated Machine Screw

4 10/32 Plain Nuts

4 10/32 Brass Thumb Nuts

2 10/32 x 3/8” Thumb Screws

1 10/32 x ¾” Thumb Screw

1 #10 x ½” Nylon Standoff

1 1” Angle Bracket

Parts from WalMart

#2 Fishing Weight

Fine Steel Wool

Electrical Tape

Carpet Tape (To stick down the battery holder)

Tips for any e-textile circuit project: 

*Always mark your positive side of your LEDs, it's the longer side, but you couldn't tell that once they are split.
*Alkaline batteries are best.
*This project, as opposed to E-L Wire is very low voltage. 
*A voltage meter is handing for troubleshooting. Out of the whole class, mine was the only one that didn't work. Apparently I did not hand wire wrap tight enough and with a few voltage tests and some pliers I was able to get my LEDs to light up. 
*You always want to make a electronic swatch like this one that can attach and detach to your clothes for easy on/off removal to wash.
*Good water flow analogy (thanks our smart cookie teacher George!): the amount of water pressure through the pipes can be thought of as the voltage going through a wire. It's one way!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

PHILS Open House today

Just when I thought they couldn't surprise me any more, my Middle School group did it again.
We held an Electronics Open House this afternoon to show the world the kinds of projects and areas of discovery we have been exploring this year in our Makerspace. They rose to the occasion by being ambassadors of making things and seemed to have fun, too.

Soldering badges, Stop Motion with our ipads and iStop Motion software, Scratch programming, MaKeyMaKey goofiness (asparagus game controllers anyone?), how to build a basic electrical motor, and the ever-present "Take Apart Table"rounded out the activities.

We had parents, kids, staff members, librarian friends from other towns come to see what we were doing.  Of course we hung our club banner by the door. Now if we could only interest some girls to join us.  But I'm working on a plan......!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tinkering Tweens : the possibilities are formitable

For a full year, we have held a weekly tech session for young teens - mostly eighth grade boys. We played with Little Bits, Legos, MaKey MaKey, soldering, construction projects, programming challenges, and more. Though we regret girls haven't participated, we have some plans to grow in a more inclusive direction.
More about that in another post.

What we DID accomplish by holding weekly sessions, was an experiment in content and form. We tried a variety of skill-building sessions, physical and intellectual challenges and learned a lot about what we can and cannot do in an after school setting at the public library.

Today, we did a "dress rehearsal" for the Open House we are planning for next Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. - to which we hope many kids and adults come!
Learning how things work is, ultimately more important to us then magically assembling things that fly, move, interact, etc. It's super seductive to merely assemble cool stuff, but we feel it is a deeper experience to look under the hood and explore how and why.

We have some ways to go with the tinkering concept, but we are learning a tremendous amount from our snazzy eighth graders and we will miss them when they move on into the bigger pool that is high school tech classes next year!