E-Traces: Ballet Slippers That Make Drawings From The Dancer’s Movements


If you’re like me, then you may have been accused of dispensing some questionable moves in the vicinity of the dance floor. I’ve always maintained that my critics simply couldn’t grasp the subtlety of my particular style of physical expression, and now I just may have a means of illustrating my point with an ingenious piece of wearable electronics by designer Lesia Trubat González called E-Traces.


The concept of Electronic Traces is based on capturing dance movements and transforming them into visual sensations through the use of new technologies. To do this we focused on the ballet shoes themselves, which through the contact with the ground, and thanks to Lilypad Arduino technology, record the pressure and movement of the dancer’s feet and send a signal to an electronic device. A special application will then allow us to show this data graphically and even customize it to suit each user, through the different functions of this app.

As you can see in the video, E-Traces is a new way of creating stunningly elegant marks, which are almost reminiscent of calligraphy. So, who knows, maybe you could be the Rembrandt of freestyle dancing, all you need are a pair of Arduino-enhanced slippers!

If you want to give something like this a try, you can find the Lilypad Arduino in the Maker Shed!

[via Prothetic Knowledge]

Katherine Hague Talks About Trends In Wearables



Katherine Hague deals with the newest wearables every day at the Blueprint, a marketplace for new and inventive tech. This exposure gives her some insight into what is really going on in the market place, and she has some ideas about where it will go in the future. Her talk at MakerCon discussed some of the interesting trends involving fashion’s involvement in wearables and where the industry is headed.


Painting the Internet of Things Blue

A fitness tracker based on Rev B of blueIOT

A fitness tracker based on Rev B of BlueIOT

The deciding factor about what is going to be the next big thing is—at least a lot of the time—whether that the technology has reached the point where it’s useable by people other than the alpha geeks.

It appears that we’ve reached that point for wearables, as the three factors that matter most when dealing with them—size, battery life and communications—are starting to converge towards the stage where the devices are not just possible, but usable. People have been predicting wearables would be the next big thing for about as long as I’ve been involved in technology, but lately the predictions have become louder and more frequent.

Don Coleman talking at Maker Faire Bay Area 2014

However one of the factors that really making wearables possible is the growing popularity of Bluetooth Low Energy standard. While Bluetooth LE has relatively low data rates—realistically you’ll probably get around 0.25MBit/s throughput—but has been optimized for low power use, and designed to operate from simple lithium coin cell batteries, which makes it perfect for use in wearable devices.

Another advantage that Bluetooth LE has over its competition is that it doesn’t suffer from the “50% problem,” with support for the standard now available in both Android and iOS devices.

Tom Igoe and Don Coleman give an overview of Bluetooth Low Energy.

It’s also becoming a lot easier to build your own Bluetooth LE devices using off the shelf boards—like Adafruit’s nRF8001 breakout board—and there are a growing number of micro-controller platforms specifically aimed at the wearables market. There are also a number of small boards, for instance the Light Blue Bean, that are well tailored for use in wearable devices.

Guido Burger talking at Maker Faire Bay Area 2014

Amongst these boards is the BlueIOT which has come out of Fab-Lab Europe and was first seen in the wild at Maker Faire Bay Area a couple of months ago.

First batch of BlueIoT wearbles before assembly

First batch of BlueIOT wearbles before assembly

Designed around an ATmega 328P the BlueIOT is Arduino compatible and has an onboard accelerometer as well as UV and barometric sensors—there are also lots of examples showing how to use the board from TechBASIC and with Node Red. While it’s designed to go onto a breadboard, like the MetaWear, the BlueIOT is small enough to be worn and wearable projects to  date include a smart watch and a open fitness tracker.

Which comes back to my point about technological maturity. Only a few years ago building something like a smart watch would have been impossible, now it’s something you can make yourself.


Leah Buechley: Crafting the Lilypad Arduino

Leah Buechley

Photo: MIT Media Lab

I’ll never forget the first time I heard about Lilypad Arduino. I was astounded and said, “You can make LEDs light up and you stitch it with conductive thread? How does that work?” It wasn’t until years later, after experimenting with the board that I finally got to meet Leah Buechley, the inventor. She was giving a talk at University of the Arts in Philadelphia about artisanal technologies. She amazed me with her discussion of mixing classic crafts with electronics, and better yet, it was said in a lyrical tone which reminded me of my favorite teacher from 8th grade. Who was this woman that made art and technology magically merge? I was determined to learn more.

A few years later her name popped up for a workshop at Shakerag Workshop in Tennessee called “Crafting Electricity”. This was highly unusual, because it was for artists. Leah was normally only found at MIT or at global conferences. Needless to say, I went out of my way to sign up. There she was, eyes smiling, as she enchanted us all with the story of how electricity was like a waterfall, and how we as artists could control that flow. I never thought of electricity in that way before, as I had always feared it. As we experimented with the Lilypad, conductive paint and conductive thread, I soon learned that electricity was my friend, as well as the other artists with me. The workshop was only a week, but we all connected quickly and combined crafts like woodworking, felting, paper cutting, mixed media, and natural objects with electronics. We were making moss into switches, can you imagine? It was a life changing moment for me, and for a few others in the group. We had been struck by Leah.

Leah herself was first struck by Etextiles when she discovered conductive thread and fabric at University of Colorado Boulder. This was back in 2005 when she was pursuing her grad degree in Computer Science with the Craft Technology group under advisor, Mike Eisenberg. She started looking at the work of Maggie Orth and Joanna Berzowska, pioneers that knew how to combine tech and design in a beautiful way. She liked what she was seeing.

 I just loved the materials. I loved the juxtaposition of this really feminine beautiful decorative thing (textiles) with this techy, nerdy guy thing (electronics)… that contrast. One of the things that’s most exciting for me about the medium is that material and cultural contrast.

Leah ended up doing something controversial, changing her PHD topic midstream from Cellular Automata to Etextiles. That sounds easy, but the university had never seen wearables, so she was experimenting completely on her own. She started to construct projects with LED matrix displays, like a tank top and beaded bracelets. Although she didn’t have formal training in fashion, she had always been crafty and had taken plenty of courses as an undergrad in theater, art and photography. Many are aware of her quilt square project, which many educators are still copying today. The squares use metal snaps and have the ability to communicate and be arranged in different patterns due to the circuit layouts. Not only is it a fun class project, but it is a great example of an important mission in Leah’s life – inspiring future techies.


Photo: L. Buechley

Her research group was geared to education and technology, especially new ways to get kids interested in STEM (science, tech, engineering and math). They were brainstorming ways to get kids and novices interested in Etextiles, which is where Nwanua Elumeze enters the story. You may recognize Nwanua’s name from Aniomagic, a company that currently creates tiny controllers for Extextiles. Back then, Nwanua was in the same lab as Leah, and they often collaborated on projects. He taught her electronics – especially PIC microcontrollers. To further their mutual interest in education, they created an e-sewing kit together. Students were interested, but they wanted more – it needed to be programmable. Microcontrollers needed to be in the mix, and Leah just happened to have a fresh idea.

I started to play with ways to make more complex circuit boards out of fabric. I developed a way to build circuit boards out of laser cut fabric, and then once I could do that, I could put microcontrollers in a sewable package. This let me give microcontrollers to kids in my workshops.

By now it was 2006, and the first rough Lilypad kits had been born. They were square fabric circuit boards and were used in workshops with high school kids. Of course there was no company at the time; Leah would just make a batch of these to take into a class. The experiment proved interesting and it led to Leah’s first published paper about wearables “A Construction Kit for Electronic Textiles”, which talked about a workshop that she and Nwanua taught with microcontrollers. One of the things Leah struggled with was the type of controller being used. She wanted to use surface mount because they were less bulky than the typical through-hole style. The question was how to get them to be stable enough on fabric.

Orig Lilypads

Photo: L. Buechley

I was trying to make traditional right angle circuits, but then I realized I was working with fabric and I could do really different stuff. I realized that if I made traces that were really fat at one end, and then got skinnier as they led up to the microcontroller, they could work for surface mount components on fabric. This led me to the flower-like design for LilyPad.

The second version of the Lilypad had found its root; it was a flower shape with a small controller attached in the center and covered with plastic resin. Something to keep in mind is that we are talking about a time period that pre-dates Arduino. Leah was using Atmel AVR chips for her projects and the avr-gcc programming tools. It was not easy to install the tools back then, so imagine the difficulty in teaching classes. Despite the challenges, classes were happening, and girls were getting excited about engineering and computing.

It was a great way to bust open the stereotypes associated with technology. That was one of my main reasons for wanting to make it commercial. It seemed like this was really a cool social disruptor.

Photo: L. Buechley

What Leah was witnessing with her classes was the spark of the DIY movement. Arduino was just getting started and a little company called SparkFun Electronics was selling some parts they were making in a small two room set-up on hot plates. Leah was picking up parts at SparkFun one day when she got into a conversation with Nate Seidle about a commercial product. Obviously that went well, and what followed was them making a copy of her fabric circuit board. Eagle files were exchanged, edits happened and revisions were made. In October 2007 the Lilypad Arduino was released, and boards sold out quickly to excited DIY fans that had already been seeing projects online. The addition of Arduino made everything simpler to use.


The Etextile movement had been launched and Leah’s work sprouted in many directions. Shortly after Lilypad, MIT Media Lab hired her and she founded the Hi-LowTech research group. They explored connections between different ways of making – high tech and ancient. The bigger question of who makes and why they make are something that Leah knows well.

Building stuff and making stuff is one of the things that people find great satisfaction in … I know I do. That is some fundamental human impulse that connects to all sorts of things … like our need to be productive, our need to do things well, and our need to connect with other people and our need to be proud of the stuff we’ve done… our need to kind of show off a little, and get praised. Our need to give the world something that we think is valuable, our need to think about things and solve problems. There are just so many things it connects to; it’s really powerful.

Once I discovered I could bring a drawing to life as a physical object with lights and sounds, there was no turning back. Leah has impacted so many that I hate to box her in as just the inventor of the Lilypad or the instigator of the DIY wearable movement. Think of her as another Rachel Carson – someone that develops a sense of wonder in all beings and creates a safe place to explore, share and connect. We are the waterfall and powerful things can happen when we learn how to harness that energy. Love you, Leah Buechley.

WearableWeek_Badge_small_bur01This week, July 14-19 2014, we’re exploring wearable electronics of all kinds on Make! If it is electronic and belongs on your body, we’d love to hear about it! You can find all of our wearable articles by going here.

5 Wearables To Make With LittleBits

littleBits is thrilled to be part of Wearables Week at Makezine!

For those that arent’ familiar with littleBits: littleBits is a library of electronic modules that snap together with magnets for prototyping, learning, and fun. Given the small physical size of littleBits, we love thinking of new ways to use them to make wearables. Here are some of our favorites:

Light-up Stomping Shoes

These glowing, sound-activated kicks are perfect for a night out on the town. Decorate a pair of sneakers with the littleBits light wire, add a sound trigger, and start dancing. The stomping of your feet and louder ambient noise generate the light and you get your groove on. This project is easy to make and will inevitably make you the star of the dance floor.

See the Stomping Shoes project


Light-up Party Jacket

If you liked the stomping shoes, here is another flashy wearable project that will take your outfit to the next level. This light-up jacket pulses to the tunes on your MP3 player. To create this project, we used littleBits light wires, bright LEDs, and the microphone module, which translates sound into the electronic language of littleBits.

See the Light-up Party Jacket project


Sound-activated Bowtie

One of our favorites from the holidays, this sound activated bowtie moves when you speak, what better greeting when you meet friends for the party? We used a sound trigger, dimmer, pulse, and servo to create this interaction. When the sound trigger hears your voice, it activates the servo, which moves the bowtie. The dimmer and pulse are used to control the angle and speed of the servo’s motion.

See the Sound-activated Bowtie project


Auto-cooling Hat

Beating the summer heat is a particularly timely topic here on the east coast right now, so we outfitted a hat with a fan module to stay cool. We placed a bend sensor inside the hat, which bends when you place the hat on your head, activating the fan. This way, you don’t need to turn the fan on/off each time you put the hat on or take it off.

See the Auto-cooling Hat project


Light-up Dino Hoodie

Let’s be honest: who doesn’t want a glowing dinosaur hoodie? This prehistoric wearable was made with an old hoodie and LittleBits modules. The light wire is used as a structural element to create the look of dinosaur scales.

See the Light-up Dino Hoodie project


Wearables at Camp Galileo with Arduino Woman

Hello World!  My name is Tenaya Hurst and I teach at Camp Galileo – The Tech Summer Camps at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose.  My class is titled Wearable Technology (and I get to teach Circuits & Electronics and Maker Studio).  Students know very little about the class before attending, but they do know that electricity will be involved…and some of them may have heard that I am Electric myself!!


My students are so sweet

My students are so sweet

Monday we start by introducing basic sewing techniques, because after all the original Wearable Technology is sewing itself.  Cave People were Makers before all of us, and they figured out how to secure 2 pieces of material together.  We focus on running stitch as this is what we’ll be using for our technology.  We also learn 3 different variations of hemming stitches.  The students practice in napkins I obtained after my friend’s wedding.  4 sides, 4 stitches to practice.  We also practice sewing buttons because those are similar to the surface mount LEDs.


Tuesday is for Technology and Trashion.  Using trash or refuse to create art and fashion can be so much fun.  More than just bubble wrap dresses, many materials can be repurposed and reused to make something super unique.  I encourage the kids that Trashion is more than just using trash, the maker has to adjust and adapt the materials, paint, cut, twist, weave, etc.  The students also enjoy receiving their Arduino Woman wearable tech kit using the Lilypad coincell battery holder.  We learn basic circuits in parallel because those are the best to use for Lilypad circuits for LED brightness.  We have the students draw out their plan for their design and where the positive track of their thread will go versus their negative thread.

Wednesday, we keep working towards our Maker Faire – Fashion Show goal.  There is no theme for the fashion show other than every camper has the opportunity to use 10 LEDs of different colors and I encourage T-shirt redesign, Trashion, and accessories to be part of their creations.  My assistants and I are busy working with each student individually to make sure that they understand the connections and how to not short circuit their design!

View All

Thursday, we rehearse our runway walk, poses, and blue steel puckered look!  My students know to show off their LEDs and make sure the audience can see their work!  Some students are deep in the failure phase of engineering so we try our best to get everyone’s circuit working reliably by today.

Friday is the full on Maker Faire and Fashion Show.  Students start making right away, they absolutely can’t wait to get started.  The room is all decked out in faire-ness and the runway is set.  We have just a few hours for the finishing touches and then the parents and guests arrive for our show!  I begin the show by talking about our class and what we’ve accomplished in our brief week together, praising the innovation and dedication of my students and staff.  I explain a little about who I am and some details about the Lilypad and my wearable technology kits.  Then the fashion show begins to 2 songs that I recorded, especially for the event, and each student takes the runway by themselves or with a fellow maker.  It is truly special to see their confidence and poses and LED creations.  Following the show, we have a paparazzi frenzy and I get to meet all the parents.

WearableWeek_Badge_small_bur01This week, July 14-19 2014, we’re exploring wearable electronics of all kinds on Make! If it is electronic and belongs on your body, we’d love to hear about it! You can find all of our wearable articles by going here.

DIY “Google Glass”

13-year-old Clay Haight made his own wearable smart glasses, inspired by Google Glass.

13-year-old Clay Haight made his own wearable smart glasses, inspired by Google Glass.

When Clay Haight was 8 years old, his grandfather bought him a book that explained how things were made and how to repair everyday appliances. He caught the bug and has been fascinated with making ever since. He’s tried his hand at electronics, robotics, and other DIY projects, many of which he found in Make: magazine.

He bought his first Arduino, an Uno, at age 10. Now he has the Uno, the Mega, the Esplora, the Mini, the Ardweeny, the Mintduino and even his own home-built Arduino compatible.

At age 13, he saved up his money and bought a Printrbot Simple. He has since upgraded it and prints projects and parts nearly every day.

Clay Haight with his DIY "Google Glass".

Clay Haight with his DIY “Google Glass”.

Clay’s latest project, which he is quite proud of, is an intelligent pair of glasses inspired by Google Glass and Make: Volume 38 (High-Tech DIY).

Clay’s DIY “Google Glass” uses the sensors on the Arduino Esplora along with the Arduino LCD screen and a 3D printed frame. He can use voice commands to bring up a calendar with his schedule, local maps, and temperature and weather info. A headband on the back keeps it from tilting to one side.

“Now they are extremely comfortable,” says Clay. “In fact I wear them around my house and tell my parents the temperature just for fun!”



Nice work, Clay. Keep on making!

WearableWeek_Badge_small_bur01This week, July 14-19 2014, we’re exploring wearable electronics of all kinds on Make! If it is electronic and belongs on your body, we’d love to hear about it! You can find all of our wearable articles by going here.


Future’s so Bright, I Gotta Wear LED Shades

Programmable LED shades from macetech.

Open source programmable LED shades from macetech.

Garrett Mace of macetech LLC creates awesome LED projects, including the ultra-cool LED Shades. His original design, which he created back in 2012, has now been made available under an OSHW-compatible license. Garrett provides the Eagle CAD files, schematics, board pictures and example Arduino code on his blog, where he also shares other projects and updates.

Garrett now has a newer version of the LED Matrix Shades for sale on the macetech web store. The new design is much improved, with hinged folding legs, better resolution, increased reliability and a more elegantly incorporated battery.

New and improved LED Matrix Shades come with a choice of blue, green, red, or white LEDs.

New and improved LED Matrix Shades come with a choice of blue, green, red, or white LEDs.

However, the older open source version still has its charms. The simple two-layer board and shift register control is much easier to build in a home electronics lab. It’s perfect for the maker on a budget.

Whether you’d rather pay for cutting edge tech-chic, or fire up your soldering iron and print your own boards, these glasses look like a lot of fun.

WearableWeek_Badge_small_bur01This week, July 14-19 2014, we’re exploring wearable electronics of all kinds on Make! If it is electronic and belongs on your body, we’d love to hear about it! You can find all of our wearable articles by going here.


The Open-Source Smartwatch Built by a Teenager


You’d have to look pretty hard to find a greater sign of dedication to making than a 15-year-old skipping driver’s ed. But that’s exactly what John Wall did last year, when he was so engrossed in his OLED watch project that he waited a full year to get his learner’s permit.

Now 16 and working on version 6.0 — a Bluetooth Low Energy version — Wall has upgraded the open-source Walltech OLED Watch to include custom fonts and time displays and even an Asteroids-style game.

It all started when Wall impulse-bought an Arduino Uno and used it to build a bedside clock. It was his first exposure to making and soldering. “I didn’t really have any hobbies before this — probably Lego when I was a kid — and I think I saw it on the internet one day that someone had made something, like a little robot, so I looked into it a bit and thought, well, people are making some really cool stuff with this,” he says.

DSC00947Then, when he noticed an LED ring and a Femtoduino, he figured he could put them together into a watch. With a coin-cell battery and a PCB designed in Fritzing, he says it sort of worked. “I knew I wanted to make one that was a step up, that was functional and was much more customizable, and maybe had a pixel-based screen instead of LEDs,” he says.

He discovered Tindie, Make:, SparkFun, and Adafruit. Along the way he learned to code and to solder. He built his own fume extractor from a PC fan and carbon filters they sell at pet shops for fish tanks. (“That’s a lifesaver. It’s almost as useful as the iron itself,” he says.) He worked on it on his family’s kitchen table, packing everything up so they could eat dinner.

And it’s paid off. MakerBot founder Bre Pettis noticed the (exhaustive) blog post Wall wrote about the project, and asked for 20. “He’s a collector of do-it-yourself watch kits, and open source watches. That’s a big project that I’ll definitely need some space for,” says Wall. “I haven’t figured out how I’m going to scale up if I go beyond 20.”

IMG_20140420_161507Wall is still exploring ways to polish the project, coding it to interact with Android and iOS, making it smaller, and adding a new exterior. Though he likes the exposed look of the current prototype, he’d love to get his hands on a 3D printer so he can print a custom band. (The current band is made to fit a stock iPod Nano.)

Aside from the watch, Wall is working on a Bluetooth headset with bone-conductive transducers, a wireless game controller, an ambient noise-canceling device for headphones, and a clock based on multiple bicolor LED matrices from Adafruit. “I just like clocks, different ways of displaying time with LEDs,” he says.

But even beyond clocks, he loves the process of making.

“Making things is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had,” he says. “Finishing this watch, the OLED watch, it’s a feeling of love and hate basically. You put it together and then you’re terrified it’s not going to work, and then you flip the switch and the code you’ve written for it beforehand works and it’s the best feeling ever. You put it on, you wear it around, and it’s just, you’re so proud, I’m so proud of it.” IMG_20140710_181515

WearableWeek_Badge_small_bur01This week, July 14-19 2014, we’re exploring wearable electronics of all kinds on Make! If it is electronic and belongs on your body, we’d love to hear about it! You can find all of our wearable articles by going here.


10 Fabulous and Fashionable Wearable Projects from Becky Stern

Becky Stern modeling her NeoPixel Punk Collar

Becky Stern modeling her NeoPixel Punk Collar.

Becky Stern, director of wearable electronics at Adafruit Industries, is the queen of cool couture, the maven of marvelous making, the… OK, you get the idea. She makes really cool stuff and shows you how.

Check out 10 of her favorite wearable projects you can try for yourself.

Start the slideshow to check out the pictures, project descriptions, and a link to the Adafruit project page.

[huff_gallery type=”slideshow” ids=”416898,416894,416901,416964,416970,416972,416974,416975,416976,416977″]

WearableWeek_Badge_small_bur01This week, July 14-19 2014, we’re exploring wearable electronics of all kinds on Make! If it is electronic and belongs on your body, we’d love to hear about it! You can find all of our wearable articles by going here.