Soft Circuitry

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Here are three small soft circuit projects created as examples for Year 5 and 6 students. These projects incorporate felt, conductive thread, Light Emitting Diodes, coin batteries and sewing skills. You can get most of the materials in a haberdashery department (Spotlight or Lincraft) and an electronics store (Leading Edge or Jaycar), but you may have difficulty finding conductive thread. SparkFun is an online store where you can order the components for the simple projects shown above, or more complex wearable technology, using LilyPad Arduino. These projects may be used to address the following content descriptions:

Science Understanding – Physical Sciences

  • Light from a source forms shadows and can be absorbed, reflected and refracted (VCSSU080)
  • Energy from a variety of sources can be used to generate electricity; electric circuits enable this energy to be transferred to another place and then to be transformed into another form of energy (VCSSU081)

Engineering principles and systems

  • Investigate how forces or electrical energy can control movement, sound or light in a designed product or system (VCDSTC034)

Materials and Technologies Specialisations

  • Investigate characteristics and properties of a range of materials, systems, components, tools and equipment and evaluate the impact of their use (VCDSTC037)
  1. First choose a template and map out the simple circuit – Where will the battery sit? Where will the LED be? How will these components be joined to form a circuit?
  2. Cut two copies from felt and put the components in place. Stitch (or hot glue gun) the battery holder in place and attach a length of conductive thread to the metal tag on one side.
  3. Make sure you check which way the LED works – as a diode it has a positive and negative side. Stitch from the battery to the LED and firmly attach to one leg of the LED.
  4. Attach another length of conductive thread to the other side of the battery holder and stitch to the other side of the LED, completing the simple circuit.
  5. Make sure the threads and stitches from each side do not touch or cross – this will create a short circuit and the LED won’t work.
  6. Decorate the front copy of the felt and stitch to the back, making sure you leave a gap to replace the battery.
  7. Once students have created a simple circuit with one LED, challenge them to create a parallel circuit with two or more LED’s, a switch with a press-stud or a soft-switch that is operated by pressing conductive fabrics together. 

REFERENCES

Getting Hands on with Soft Circuits – a workshop facilitator’s guide by Emily Lovell (27 page pdf)

MAKE – We are all makers

Instructables – Soft Circuits

Soft-Circuit Saturdays – E-textile projects

Leah Buechley’s High-Low Tech tutorials

How to get what you want – E-textiles (fabric meets electronics), a hat that records and plays back voices and other wearable sound projects

LilyPad Arduino – for more complex interactive projects with sensors, motors, speakers, flashing lights and other programmable features.

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