Making a Do-It-Yourself Switch to go with you DIY Button #passthescopeEDU #ecg2016 #EdCampVoxer

I’m warming up this blog with some fun e-textile action.  Don’t know what an e-textile is?  You’re not alone. The first post in this thread (no pun intended) can be quickly glanced at by clicking this mask:


E-Whaat? E-textile? Huh?

And if you want to glance at the post that comes before the post you are in right now, click on the DIY button below:

DIIY button

Do-It-Yourself Button

Now we get to the sister post, making a DIY switch.  Just as with the button, the making of the switch is not to make a better switch than LilyPad – or to make a switch that’s more quaint.  Making a switch gives a chance to get inside what a switch actually does, how a switch actually works.  And to have fun for a little while.  It’s not hard.  It’s not expensive. Here’s a link to the Sparkfun Electronics tutorial. The end product of mine is pictured here:


I could just as easily have used one of my generic battery holders to make this switch, but I happened to use the LilyPad battery holder.


Did you noticed that I hadn’t checked that my battery was working before using it to test this project? Oops. Learned my lesson, though.  Most of the time, I check the batteries very shortly before putting them into a new project.

Because this worked very well, I didn’t have the opportunity of learning a lot from it. I eventually came to see that things malfunctioning allow me the most opportunity for problem solving and understanding.  At the moment it happens, there is some frustration. But as long as I’m not in a hurry or uncomfortable or tired, it gives me a chance to get better at what I’m doing.

Since this has been a short post, I’ll conclude with a little project that uses the manufactured buttons and slide switches.  The end project looks like this:


The battery holder in this case does not have a slide switch directly on the board.  Again, I could have used a generic battery holder.  This one is LilyPad.  Here is the Sparkfun tutorial. Watch the video to see my process in action:


At the very end I should have said “turn off the switch,” but I misspoke and said “turn off the button”. A button turns off when you let go of it.  A switch as to be moved to disengage.

This little project is nearly identical to the e-sewing kit that I showed in an earlier post except for two differences. The e-sewing kit it is done on a printed piece of fablic. It also uses parallel circuits similar to the ones I demonstated in an earlier post.

The various compenent in the Design Kit can be used in unlimited ways, especially when combined with all the other products from LilyPad or DIY components such as generic LED’s that I twisted to make it possible to sew them into fablic.  Most on that in a later post.

Do you demand that everything you attempt is immediately successful?

How much tolerance do you tend to have for technical glitches or gaps in your knowledge?

What do you do when you’re stuck?





Do It Yourself Switches and Buttons for e-textiles #passthescopeEDU #ecg2016 #edcampvoxer

For those who don’t know about e-textiles, start with this little explanation:


If you missed the post about series circuitry, check out:

Those tiny white hairs on the blue felt belong to Nina, in case you’re wondering:


Today’s post continues the use of the LilyPad Design Kit from Sparkfun Electronics.  The difference here is that the switches and buttons are improvised, as you’ll see.  Hence the title, DIY or do-it-yourself.

DIY Button:

The idea here is that, sure, you can purchase a button.  In fact, LilyPad Design Kit comes with a few.  So do the protosnap sets that I’ll post about down the line.  But you don’t have to use the manufactured buttons.  If you chose to do-it-yourself, you might even learn something.  Like, how a button works. Not a button that goes up your shirt; a button that completes an electronic circuit.  Here is what a big, felt DIY button looks like when it’s done:

DIIY button.JPG

My process was thus:

I did not try to figure it out before I started.  I just started following the directions for gathering the materials.  I love having materials in my hand.  It’s reassuring somehow.  I look at the pictures and see if I can imagine what is going on.

Now, sometimes this gets me no where fast.  Most of the time, though, it gets me intrigued.  It’s a challenge, to overuse a popular buzzword.  I’m not challenged to prove to anyone, least of all to myself, that I can solve the puzzle. What I’m talking about is more of an entertainment. Play with a purpose. An example might be playing solitaire with a deck of cards, or, perhaps, mountain biking by yourself. No one is seeing you, judging you, keeping score, or praising you. The challenge absorbs you until you are either tired or bored.  While it lasts, you just ride it out for the sheer interest of it.


Okay, no more small talk.

Keep in mind that the shiny metallic-looking fabric inside the button is capacitive, just like the thread. Watch the video:


Here you see the inner workings of a button.  No one actually uses a button such as this. It’s for play. In other words, it’s impovisational in a make-believe way.  Did you ever play house when you were little?  Did you ever have an easy-bake oven? Making a button like this is simply a way to play electrician without getting electrocuted or starting a fire.  You can wash it, by the way, but take the battery out first.

good vibes


On to the completion of doing-it-myself:


Time for a Pop Quiz (a thing that never happens in the world of making, by the way):

Why is it not such a good idea to use conductive thread to sew around the edges of the button?

That’s right: Because it isn’t necessary since it doesn’t need to carry a charge and may end up short circuiting the thread that does need to carry a charge.

well played

Think about tasks that challenge you without the accompanying sense of competition or seeking of approval.

What is it about a task that gives you a sense of accomplishment without anyone noticing whether you succeeded or not?

What does that tell you about yourself?

Next post: DIY Switch

Keep in touch!



















From Parallel Circuits to Series Circuits Using LilyPad Electronics #passthescopeEDU #ecg2016

Here’s a link to the post introducing this series about e-textiles.

And here’s a link to the post where I last left off:


And now, without further ado, we come to the latest installment.

There’s really no reason why series circuits should be any more difficult, but, for me, they were.  And having difficulty is actually an opportunity for problem solving and therefore learning. I’m documenting my process so that others can see that the path to understanding is not always direct.  There was no one guiding me but an online tutorial.  I had to figure out why the connections were not correct and redo them.  Each attempt required testing.  This is an iterative process.


As I’m explaining what I’ve done, I’m actively explaining my thought processes and inquiring into how I went astray. I interrupt myself, going on a tangent.  I explain various things I checked for and how I decided to put on my glasses and look at the directions. Live and learn.

This iteration doesn’t work either. Perseverence.  I make some conjectures about my errors.

I had decided to literally do it over. I set aside my first attempt and used completely new parts on a new felt. “Back to the sewing board,” as it were.

Here I decide to do a little experiement midway through the task.  Instead waiting till the end to test it, I use a needle to test of the connections are good.  I think ahead to my next move.

Here I decide that I should try different batteries.  This was about the time I got the idea to use the simple circuit as my battery tester.


This is where I dig in and do some serious debugging.  I’m attempting to isolate the problem area by finding all the connections that successfully light up LEDs.  Notice that I state that it isn’t working “YET.” That’s growth mindset at work.

i'm on it


Here I’m becoming more practiced at troubleshooting.  You can hear my dog shaking in the background.


She gets bored when I’m busy.


Here I’m able to conclude that my error was in having too many LED for the number of batteries.  I had misread the directions.  Eventually, I will not need directions.  This is a step along the way toward that end.

struggle is real

I decide to put it on the back burner and move on to the next project.

This clip cuts off mid-sentence.  I’m trying to explain here that sometimes you have a problem and that problems are not completely unavoidable.

Think of times when you have encountered technical difficulties.  How did you get through it.  What was your mindset?

working late.png




From Simple Circuit to Parallel Circuit #PassthescopeEDU

My first post on this topic: “E-texiles?”


Most recent previous post: “Simple Circuit”

This series of post documents my own process as I learn to use electronics.  Beginning with non-programmable circuitry sewn into fabric, moving then into microcontrollers, and eventually into Arduino programming.

Today’s post branches into parallel circuits.  Looks like this:


The tricky part that I had to learn is to wear my glasses and triple check which was positive end of LED mini-board and which was negative.  Another thing to look out for is the conductive thread hanging out on the bottom side of fabric.  The knots have to be trimmed down to prevent short circuits.  Finally, must check that needle pulls thread all the way through.  Not an easy matter to go back and undo if you realize you left some slack.


Three upcoming virtual events:

First:  #EdCampVoxer takes place July 5-9, 2016.  There are tons of Voxer chats available to participate in. I will facilitate “Making as Learning” and “Green Screen Video Production”.

Second:   #passthescopeEDU which takes places on July 21st with my session happening at 1pm. I will Periscope at the end of a week facilitating ArtDuino camp with a group of young campers in Vermont.

Third: There’s another virtual event coming up with will feature some use of e-textiles. EdCampGlobal, #ecg2016, takes place July 30th all day.  The session I’m facilitating will take place via periscope at 2pm while I’m at the Rutland Mini-Maker Faire in Vermont.  It will be my second year with an interactive booth.  We make mostly non-programmable robots, but I’m expanding the offerings to include e-textiles.

If you are interested in knowing more, please let me know.  You can tweet me @msdayvt or @CynthiaEDay.

What are you summer plans?

Using LilyPad Design Kit to learn basics #passthescopeEDU”

Clear here for earlier post about “what are e-textiles?”

My most recent post demonstrated the use of an “e-sewing kit” from Sparkfun Electronics.  

This post demonstrates use of a “design kit”.

The design kit is meant to be more flexible and creative.  There are more components that can be combined in more ways.  The basic electronic foundations are no different than the e-sewing kit.

Today I found a wonderful explanation of electrical circuitry.  My words in this post are not for the purpose of proving my facility with teaching electricity and magnetism concepts, but rather to document my learning path with e-textiles.  If you, as a blog reader, are looking for student-friendly explanations, I can point you to and their “bug lab.”


The battery holder used here is not from LilyPad.  I bought a ton of them at much lower cost.  The drawback is that you can’t use a fat needle because there isn’t room.  That makes threading the needle more difficult.  You can use a little device to help thread the needle if you must.


Making a simple circuit is simple, but not a waste.  I now use this to test batteries.  It’s with me all the time.

July 21, 2016, is our next #passthescopeEDU.  My plan at this point is to show some of these little projects discuss upcoming projects.  It will be a 5-10 minute periscope beginning at 1:00 pm.  Follow the hashtag and learn from all of us.  My Twitter handle is @msdayvt.  See you soon!

July 4

e-textiles using LilyPad electronics

For an introduction to what e-textiles are about, look at previous post here.

Here is a very introductory sewing tutorial (11:04):


What follows is an easy to follow documentation  that can be used as a tutorial with use of the e-sewing kit, with links to products, photos, and videos.

Today, the topic is using a kit.  There are guides at Sparkfun: Part One and Part Two.

Here are a few short clips from my process:

First, I show getting started (2:28):


Next (1:11):


And (0:37):


Further (0:37):

Continuing (1:05):


More (1:04):



And (0:38):


At this point: You have a complete project. You can use the project for multiple purposes.

It can be sewed or glued to almost anything and it can be sewed onto nearly anything.

esewing kit.JPG

E-Whaaat? E-texile? Huh?

E is for electronics. Textiles are fabrics. E-textiles are fabrics or clothing items that have electronic components sewn into them.  Okay, but why? Why sewing? Why “wearable” electronics?

In short, it’s just a thing that people are doing. Like electronically powered scooters (known popularly as “hoverboards”), e-textiles (or wearable electronics) are in fashion.  They’re a trend, a novelty, and a statement one chooses to make.  Wearable electronics say, “I wear stuff that sparkles or beeps.  And you could, too.”


The above photo shows a mask that I made out of felt, glue, elastic, LED’s on little boards, conductive thread, and a coin cell battery tucked into a battery holder and hidden by some extra felt.  It isn’t going to win any awards for creativity or precision, but it does the trick.

To make it, I followed a pattern and used electronic components that were specially designed for the purpose.  Now that I know how they work, I am free to make my own patterns and design my own circuits.  I could go downscale and use garden variety LED’s or I could go upscale and add a programmable micro-controller that can make the LED’s blink, fade, or twinkle.


The picture shows the micro-controller in the center, four LEDs surrounded it, and a battery holder with a slide switch down below.  The micro-controller uses an open source programming environment called Arduino.  The components were designed at MIT’s Media Lab by Leah Bucheley and are called “LilyPad.” The micro-controller is midway between a simple, straightforward circuit as above and a more complex component referred to as a “board.”


Here you see the LilyPad “Simple” board surrounded by some inputs and some and outputs.  Along with the same LEDs as were shown above, there are a slide switch and button switch as well as a buzzer, a vibration motor, an RGB (red, green, blue) LED, a light sensor, and a temperature sensor.

Does this little ‘splain of e-textiles give you a sense of what they’re about?

It doesn’t go into the computer coding part of it, or the different ways to use them.  Maybe next time.

If you want to know more, stay tuned.

anything for you


can't wait





Just learning how to embed/link tweets


In my previous post about #passthescopeEDU I attempted to embed a few tweets, but didn’t understand the directions. So I quit and hit publish!

Sometimes you just have to let go.

Ya know?

But now I have the hang of it.

I think.

In tweet deck, I just have to click “link to tweet” and the link pops up in the compose box:


I copy that code:

and paste it into this here page.

And, voila.

Here.  I’ll try another:

So easy.  So easy that I’ll do it again. ‘Cause it’s fun:



There’s a moment where you see all this code on the page and then things start blinking like you’re in a club and things are flashing and there’s a beat and you’ve just had an adult beverage.  And then things get really calm and the tweet is just sitting there on the page like:


Then there’s a peaceful moment in which you say to yourself:

I can do this.

Yes, I can.

So here are a few more from #passthescopeEDU:

The hardest part is waiting a minute before moving on.  I hit the return key to keep going, but the curser is like:

Nah. Gimme a minute. Gotta chill for two.

Then you hit it again and it’s like:

i'm on it

Notice that the tweet above has my bitmoji avatar as my twitter avatar.  That’s my alter twitter account that I set up when I started my blog back in January!  That’s right.  I started a blog and then didn’t use it. Like many of my irons in the fire, this blog is a work in progress.  I own it.

struggle is real

That’s my friend and associate and her #passthescopeEDU bit.  I can’t remember what the Hamilton thing is about.  Better go back and view it again.  We had a lot going on!

working late

It was great fun.

Okay, hitting publish now.  See you again soon, I hope!

Deal with it

ps: that’s my “call to action”.


#passthescopeEDU June 16, 2016

Why did I need to wash the exterior of all my windows the morning after periscoping during #passthescopeEDU’s June episode?  Why was that the first thing I did upon waking and drinking coffee?

The answer is that I had been impulsively inspired to write all over them with dry erase markers as a way to provide visual back up to my scope.  Why window? Because they were there.


Originally, I had planned just to talk.  I had hoped to have interaction with viewers. My preference had been to be unscripted. Why was that plan abandoned?

My fellow #passthescopeEDU scopers had been discussing the theme for June’s event for quite some time.  Our attempt to settle on a single these didn’t work, so we settled on two.  Ironically, one of the two was called #OneBigThing.  That’s the struggle when collaborating.  Keeping things narrow enough to be coherent and wide enough to allow individuality.  The other theme was #GlobalConnections.

Choices were to choose one these or embrace both themes.  Boldly, I chose both.  Having the leisure time to experiment, I ventured forth.  The results were mixed.


gloves and shoes



On the positive side, I was inspired to look more closely at the content I had planned to share.  It also led me to experiment with linking to other platforms that would house more information.

One of the downfalls was that as though I were delivering my message instead of being present for my audience.  I’m not even going to get into the technical problems which made the scope break up and skip. That was just life in the fast lane.

Looking more deeping into the content took me to Australia and to Italy, my #globalConnections.  I rediscovered the Reggio Emilia approach and learned how well it speaks for #MakerED.  The assumptions and principles of Reggio Emilia were my “OneBigIdea.”

12aim of reggio


15children have control

Besides the Australian speaker lined up for the Constructing Modern Knowledge conference — #CMK16 was a centerpiece in my scope — there was another global aspect that I failed to mention in my scope. I alluded to it, but never got back it.

So here it is:

A Twitter friend tweeted that she was planning to attend this year.  I tweeted back and we started a DM conversation in which we resolved that we would share a room and that I would pick her up in Boston and bring her to New Hampshire for the event!  This had been my original “GlobalConnection.” We are both stoked.

(Wanted to embed tweet but it failed.)


One of the pleasures of the broadcast was showcasing some of the electronic textiles that I’m working on.



I’m awoken in the night by an emergency of heat: a lack thereof. Water below the floors is running cold, contrary to design. The urgency cannot be understated in the late November of Northern New England.


Get a plumber. Get a person who knows how to plumb, by God.

Why? Because cold.

A white van emblazoned with a fine French Candian name pulls up in the morn. The bearded face, the multimeter, and the iPhone together plumb the depths of the building to diagnose a mal du chaud.

What malady lies within this beast of metal and plastic?  On the wall hangs the box wherein flows the charge of electrons determining a life sheltered vs. a life exposed. Get an electrician.


Get a person who knows how to wire, by God.

Why? Because cold.

Institutions summon plumbers and electricians, figuratively speaking, in mechanical attempts to fix: fix component parts, fix expectations, fix people.

The worst offenders? Institutions of education. All is coded. Roles are played. People are appointed. We tinker with systems. Expectations are implied or stated. What goes UNsaid is often most important to those charged with meeting those expectations.

That complicated institution by which water is heated during the night while the cost of electricity is low (called off-prime), then circulated beneath the floors during the day to heat the rooms, includes the added feature of a system override.  This could only end badly.


On the wall, melted wires lying in a tangle of plastic prevent the flow of energy from a source to its destination. We can only guess at HOW it melted.  Was it caused by something within or without?

Later, a new van arrives, carrying another bearded face, another multimeter, and an Android phone this time. The face is just as friendly as the last though it carries the reek of ugly tobacco.

He descends. He looks. He pokes. He makes a phone call.
He ascends. “I don’t know how to fix it,” he states matter of factly.

What followed were the facts. “It’s too confusing,” came the truth, “I have to get someone else over here to look at it.”

As he turns to go, he shares a final thought: “You’re lucky you didn’t have a fire. Those wires are all melted together.”


Should the electrician replace the wiring to restore electrical flow, or, should he determine whether or not the elements within the tank are causing the wiring to overheat?  To do so is expensive.  However, an opportunity may be missed to solve the underlying problem.

Meanwhile, cold.

How long to admire the problem before acting?

Once water is warmly flowing beneath the floors, for how long can it be sustained?

Institutions encounter similar questions.

Educational institutions cannot answer questions about repair because they cannot ask them frankly.  They can’t ask the questions frankly because to do so upsets the delicate balance that maintains a fragile political ecosystem.

So: frozen.



How does your educational institution tinker in attempts to repair?

Who agrees on what to fix?

Is there a system override?

Who hoards the information?

Who calls the plumber?