Teaching teenagers to sew soft circuits

For the last couple of months UCL Engineering has been running a series of Royal Institution STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) masterclass workshops for 13-14 year old kids from London schools. For the latest one I ran a session on how to sew soft circuits, which aimed to give the kids an introduction in making their own wearable technology.

The kids were given Arduino-based LilyTwinkle Protosnap kits, which consist of a preprogrammed LilyTwinkle microprocessor, four LED lights, a coin cell battery, a battery holder, conductive thread and needles for sewing. I had prepared templates for superhero masks and had a big and colourful pile of felt that could be used to create simple items for wearing.

Most of the 30 or so kids were enthusiastic about getting creative with lights and textiles, although there were some who were out of their comfort zone with sewing. We saw quite a few superhero masks being made, and even a ‘gaming hat’ for role playing sessions and mask in honour of the legendary band Slipknot. Many of the projects were not finished by the end of the session, but I would like to think that they got finished later at home. My aim was to give them an introduction to the methods of creating e-textiles so that instead of being just consumers they can become makers.