Introduction to Wearable Technology: Make an LED Blink | Sara Chipps | Skillshare

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Introduction to Wearable Technology: Make an LED Blink

teacher avatar Sara Chipps, Co-Founder, Jewelbots

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Planning Your Wearable


    • 3.

      Sewing Your Wearable


    • 4.

      Coding Your Wearable


    • 5.



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About This Class

Join developer Sara Chipps for an introduction to one of tech's top trends: wearable devices that integrate fascinating and functional features into daily fashion. No prior experience needed! Get the essentials as she shares her process, then put your learning into action with a fun project using LED lights.

You will use light code to program a custom blinking pattern into a string of LED lights with an Arduino Gemma, and sew the lights into your clothing or a favorite accessory. This class is great place to start for anyone curious about coding.

Meet Your Teacher

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Sara Chipps

Co-Founder, Jewelbots


Sara has been a software developer for over 10 years. She was previously CTO of Levo League, and started an organization called Girl Develop It geared towards getting more women coding. For the past year Sara has been focused on robotics, expecially where it meets wearable technology.

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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hi, my name is Sarah Chipps, CEO, and co-founder of Jewelbots. Jewelbots are smart friendship bracelets designed to spark girls interested in engineering. Jewelbots are wearables, and wearables are technology that you can wear either on your clothes or your wrists, like Fitbit or FuelBands or the Jawbone Up. The reason why I really enjoy working with wearables and hardware in general, stems from First Robotics, which is a program that is international and for high school and middle school students. I have been privileged enough to judge the First Robotics competitions at the Jacob Javits Center here in New York. It attracts all kinds of kids from all different backgrounds and all different interests to build awesome hardware and technology. Wearables, in general, are fun because I think that it opens up and democratizes technology to all kinds of people. When I first started working with wearables, the first thing I did was make an LED blink, and that's the "hello world" of wearables, and we're going to do that together today. You don't need to be a computer programmer or even particularly good at electronics to do this class. This is for complete beginners. The skills that you'll need for this class or the ability to sew, and the ability to install programs and plug a USB into your computer. The first thing we're going to do is walk you through the components that you're going to need and how they work. Then, we're going to sew those components into a piece of clothing. I'm going to be using these ears. After that, we'll walk you through installing the Arduino IDE on your computer and uploading code onto your Arduino GEMMA. Not only is this class super easy, it should take you less than 30 minutes and allow you to spice up any outfit by adding LED wearables to your clothes or your costumes or your book bag, or whatever you can imagine. 2. Planning Your Wearable: For step one today, we're going to go over the different parts that you're going to need to sew into your clothes for your wearables project. This is an Arduino Gemma, an Arduino Gemma is a microprocessor that you can sew into your clothes. This is where we're going to upload the code that we're working with today. This is a battery case, it holds two 20 millimeter, five volt batteries. These are our sequent LEDs. This one is blue, these five LEDs are going to be what we sow into our item of clothing today. This is conductive thread, conductive thread is a special kind of thread that allows electricity to flow from your Arduino Gemma to your LEDs. Also, you'll need a needle, and a micro USB cable to upload code onto your Gemma. You can get all these parts online, stores like spark fun or Adafruit, you can also buy them altogether as a kit on Before you get started sewing, it's important to make a diagram of what you want your project to look like. I'm going to be adding LEDs to my awesome fox ears for my fox costume, I'm going to get a little creative and I'm going to put my Arduino on the back, so you can't see them, and the LEDs on the front of my ears, so I made two drawings, one of what the front of the ear should look like and the other of what it looks like on the back. So here on the back, is where I'm going to sew on my Arduino, and I made sure to mark the pins and by pins I mean the little golden pads with the holes in them. Those are what communicate with your LEDs to tell them when to light and when to go off. The ones that say D, so you see D1, D0 and D2 all get attached to the areas on your LEDs where you see the plus sign, it's hard to see now but on the LED, you'll see that one side is a plus sign and one side has a negative sign. So on the plus side, you want to connect those to one of the pins that say D1, D2 or DO. Those are GPIO pins and that will send a message to the LED to tell it to light up. Now, each pin can only send one message. So, you can attach more than one LED to the same pin, but that means those LEDs will be lighting up and turning off together. So, I lined up my Arduino to look like this, and then on the other side, I set up my pins this way, and you'll see I color coordinated the different threads. In this case, I'm going to on need three separate threads in order to wire this up correctly. One thing that's super important while you're sewing your project is that none of the threads cross. If the threads cross, then some of the electrical messages can get mixed up or even worse your LEDs can get shorted. So you need to be very careful wire sewing, and this is one of the reasons why you want a diagram beforehand. So the first thing I'm going to do is point out where the positive side of these two LEDs are attached to the D2 pin. So using one thread, I'm going to sew these two, then making sure not to hit the negative part, I'm going to sew the two positive ends to the D2 pin on my Arduino. In order to attach these other two LEDs to the D0 pin, I'm going to use a separate piece of thread to connect the positive ends of these two LEDs to each other, and then to the D0 pin, and then finally, I'm going to add my ground. Each of the LEDs needs to be connected to the ground on the Arduino. For the top two LEDs, making sure not to touch the separate thread that is connecting the two positive pins, I'm going to sew them together, and then I'm going to sew them on this side to the ground pin, and then for the bottom two LEDs, making sure that the negative pins are pointed to the inside, I'm going to take a separate piece of thread and connect them together, and then I'm going to connect them to the ground pin. So, when they're all complete, this is what they'll look like. My Arduino is sewed onto the back of my fox ear, while on the front, I have my four LEDs. These two will blink in unison and separately, these two will blink together as well. Now, I can get started sewing them onto my ears. 3. Sewing Your Wearable: So, the first thing I'm going to do is show you how to sew the right ear just like the left ear is all set up with our LEDs. I'm going to be sewing it to match our diagrams that we drew. I'm going to be doing step-by-step with each color separately. I'm going to get started first by positioning my Arduino Gemma. So, as you can see by our diagram we're putting the Arduino Gemma on the back and then we're going to put the LEDs on the front to make it look a little bit nicer. So, what I'm looking for is my ground and that's where I see the G and D. I'm going to put my ground right here and D-two and D-zero are facing up into the left. The first thing I'm going to sew is my ground. So, I also put this neat cloth on the front to cover up my stitches. So, I'm going to sew the Gemma to my ears. When I'm sewing done I like to put three stitches. So, there, that's three. Then on the back, I'm going to cut the extra thread right away. One thing you have to be very careful about since you're working with conductive thread is that if the thread from my positive output pins crosses with the thread for my ground pin, that can short out the board so, I just want to be really careful to sew those separately. Since the ears have a few letters, there's some stuffing in the middle. So, I'm just going to sew up the back on the right side. What I'm going to do next is get my LEDs and this is the cool part, I get to snap the LEDs off and I'm going to take two LEDs, if I do something wrong and I put all four of them on at the same time, it's harder to pinpoint. So, that's why I'm doing two at a time. There's two sides to my LED. One has a positive pin and the other is negative. So, I'm putting both positive pins on the top and I am sewing my ground to the negative pin. So, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to sew up the back to match with my diagram and I'm just going to sew a running stitch, it's really up to you. Running stitch could be a little messy but it's faster and I'm just going through the one layer in the back. So and then once I get to the top, I'm going to go all the way through. Now I'm going to get my first LED and since I'm sewing to the ground, I'm going to put the needle through where I see my negative pin and I sew all the way through and again, I'm going to do this when multiple times this one I'm probably going to do twice. What I've done so far is I attached my ground pin from my Gemma to my ears and then I sew that ground thread to the top of my ears and now on the front I've attached my first LED with the negative pin facing down and I sew that negative pin down. I'm now going to attach my second LED which I don't have to attach to my Gemma now since this is conductive thread. It's grounded by the thread that's attached to the Gemma. So, as long as I use the same thread, I can just keep going with that thread and I'm going to do that twice again. So, now I'm going to do a little anchor stitch on the back to shore up my thread and then I'm going to cut this thread short. Okay, so, let me show you what I did. In the back as you can see it's still just my ground to the top of the ears then at the top of the ear, I have my two LEDs fastened by their negative pins. So, now, I'm going to connect the top of my LEDs to the D-two pin and that's a digital out pin. So, just like I did with my ground, I'm going to first connect the Gemma with three stitches and then I'm going to go ahead and sew out and up, far far away from my ground. So, once I get to the top of my ears, I can just like my ground sew down to the positive side of the LEDs. Then again, I'm going to do a quick anchor stitch. Okay, so to show you what I just did, I anchored down the D-two pin. Sewed up outside to the inside of the ear and up to the top and sewn the two positive ends down. The next thing I'm going to do is sew in my next two LEDs. So, I'm going to start with the LED and then sew back. So, just making sure I'm not too close to my Gemma and then I'm going to sew on the back, making sure to stay clear of the Gemma but just going across to where my second LED will be and the size of my stitches don't really matter, I'm doing nice big ones because it's faster. Okay, so, when I get to the other side, going to go through and put the negative side of my other LED then I sew and then I'm going to stitch it twice and then what I'm going to do on the back is do a quick stitch up to the ground and then just like my other one, I'm just going to go through. So, to show you what I did and the ground thread is represented by the green stitches here on our diagram. So, if you look from our ground pin, you'll see I stitched all the way down and across and I attached it to our two negative pins on our two LEDs. So, the LED here is attached I sew across here is attached and then I sew up to where the ground is. Now my last step is represented by the red stitches here on our diagram and that's another digital out pin. So, I'm connecting the positive pins on my LEDs to what is D-zero on my Gemma. Make sure to keep my thread down low here so it doesn't touch. Then I'm going to go up the side just being super careful that my thread doesn't cross. Once I get close to the- then I'm going to go on the other side and then I'm going to sew this D-zero pin down and I'm going to go do three and then I'm going to do a quick anchor stitch and then cut the thread short. Starting on the front is I sew down the positive pin on this left LED. I sewed over here making sure to stay away from the negative pin. Sewed down this positive pin of this LED and then sewed up the side and then on the other side, I came through and attached it to D-zero. So, to review what we've done here, I've taken the positive pins on the two bottom LEDs, sewed across the bottom, up the side and attached it to D-zero. I've also taken the two negative pins on these LEDs, sewed them across and attach them to ground. I've attached the two positive pins on the top LEDs, to the D-two pin on the Gemma and the two negative pins are attached to my ground on the Gemma. 4. Coding Your Wearable: Now, that we've sewn in all our LEDs and our Gemma boards, the next step is to upload the code onto the board that will control the LEDs. You should be able to copy and paste code from this project right into your Arduino IDE. You will need to download the Arduino IDE if you don't have it, and we'll include instructions for that as well. If you're running into trouble, and you have an older version of the IDE, I recommend upgrading your IDE and getting the latest version, as the Arduino Gemma is a relatively new board, and some of the older IDEs don't support it. Before you upload the code you want to start a new sketch, and paste in the code from the project. You can verify that it pasted correctly and everything's there by hitting this Verify, and as you can see the compiling was successful. Now, before I upload the code there's a few things I want to check. I'm going to go to Tools, Board and makes sure that the Adafruit Gemma is selected. I'm also going to go to the Programmer and make sure the USBtinyISP is what is selected. If you're using a Windows machine which I'm not, you'll need to download the USB tiny drivers from the Arduino site. We'll include links for that as well. Now, before the Gemma is unique, as before you upload code, you need to hit the black button on the back next to the green LED. So, before I upload the code, I'm going to hit that button, and look for a red blinking light, and then I'm going to hit the upload button. As you can see, the upload was very fast and successful, and my LEDs are now blinking. I'm going to upload the same code onto both of my Arduino Gemma. 5. Closing: So, these are completed ears. As you can see they're both flashing in their own pattern. You can change some lines in the code to make them go faster or slower, blink differently, whatever you want to do. So, today we learned how to sew an Arduino Gemma, we learned how to add LEDs, and what conductive thread does. We also learned how to use the Arduino IDE and upload code to our projects. We'd love to see what you make with your LEDs. Please upload it to the project gallery, so we can see it and share it. Thank you for joining.