Sewable circuits - add Leds to anything!

June 21, 2016

Did you know that Lectrify can be used in sewable electronics projects? Adding electronics to wearables can be difficult especially when using raw components. Single LEDs tend to be small and conductive thread isn’t always easy to work with. All Lectrify components have large conductive pads making it easier to sew them into projects. They are also color-coded so that you can see which side is positive and negative.

Looking for project ideas? Check out this idea for a 4th of July project! Diego used 20 LEDs, 3 battery packs, conductive thread and regular thread to make this light up United States flag. Here’s a tip while you design your own wearables, use regular thread to secure the components in place. Use the conductive thread only on the metal sides. This will help minimize the conductive from criss-crossing and shorting your circuit. The LED and battery extension packs used to make this project are available on our website.  


In May, we partnered with MyStemBox to create a wearable tech project for girls. Subscribers received a Light it kit and additional components to make a light up sewable cell phone case. The website has lots of how-to and background videos on wearable tech, take a look!  



KHAN LAB school

March 3, 2016

(Letter from 2rd/3rd Grade Teacher to Parents)

" This term, students did a deep dive into how we express emotions. We watched Pixar's Inside Out and created Expression Journals with ten creative writing exercises that connect to the film and students' own emotional experiences. Students reflected on formative memories, the emotions that drive their actions, their personalities and the experiences that have influenced them, and more. Some of these journals are on display in Uno (the room immediately next to Gates Corner). 

long with the journal project, every student chose two unique emotional vocabulary words from our Emotional Vocabulary Wall (created by students in the beginning of the term). Students dove into the meanings of the words they chose and created multimedia canvases (complete with LEDs and sound recordings) to express the emotions without using words. Students learned how circuits worked with Jeremy and put the components together. This was no small feat! The end result is a stunning gallery the students have chosen to call A Step Into Feelings. "

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 2.50.04 PM
Recently, we got to try out a couple of new electronics kits called Lectrify. The parts can be snapped off and embedded directly into your project. It was fun to experiment with this kit and I’d like to share some of the thoughts that I had while playing with it.

I was particularly interested in using the LEDs for a sewn circuits project because it looked so easy to sew on! The LEDs have tiny loops that you can sew through and the polarity is color coded. When we do sewn circuits activity in the Tinkering Studio, there are a few things we have to tell people about before they start sewing:
1) polarity - mark one of the LED legs so you will know which leg is negative/positive
2) techniques for making LEDs sewable - curl up both of the “legs” or leads with a needle nose pliers to make them sewable.
3) tools - We also teach people how to use the pliers, since it’s often their first time using that kind of tool.
With Lectrify, you can skip these steps and jump right into sewing circuits.

I made a bag for my phone with the two LEDs in parallel and two different kind of switches in series (a momentary switch and on/off switch).

I was kind of surprised at how quickly the components turned into a sewn circuit project, which is what I liked most about this kit. Our Circuit Boards are fun to play with and allow you to explore electricity, but they can't be embedded in a project (they weren’t designed for that). With Lectrify, once you explore a circuit and understand how it works, you can take the components and use them for your project. I've seen lots of circuit kits but not so many of them have this kind of embeddability that could be used in broad applications, for example this could be used in sewn circuits, paper circuits, scribbling machines, bristlebots, Lego circuits, etc. The cost isn’t as cheap as raw components, but it’s not that expensive (as of today, it is $5 on Amazon). With its compact size, we were thinking it might be a nice addition to our vending machine in the Tinkering Studio!

Here is another project that I did with Lectrify.
I made a vibrating Lego machine with a pager motor, a battery, and on/off switch.

The tiny loops under each component are actually designed to fit well with Lego blocks. Since we’ve been messing around with Lego recently, it was natural to try to create a Lego project with Lectrify. Then I remembered that we had a special conductive tape that our friend Rachel Hellenga brought a while ago. This tape has holes that align with Lego studs!

Lectrify kit doesn't come with alligator clips or wires, but that actually gives us opportunity to think about what we can use to connect these components. Copper tape, pipe cleaners, tin foil, paper clips, etc., just look around your house to find what you can use to conduct electricity!

Adding a motor to Lego naturally encourages iterations as you see how the machine moves around. It's also great to add a potentiometer to adjust the motion. One thing I have to say though, I actually had a hard time trying to fit the components onto Lego. Although their website says that they fit well with Lego, it was not so easy to do that. I eventually used a hammer(!) to make them fit.

Overall, it was fun to build circuit projects with Lectrify. The motor, lights, switches, potentiometer, and battery work well as a starter kit. I wonder if they’re planning to expand the range of components to add more variety to the circuits. If so, we look forward to playing with those too!