Like the homebrew computer clubs that led to the founding of Apple, communities tend to pop up around popular hardware projects, and since it’s hardware, they tend to be in-person meetups–the kind where show and tell is the most fun part. But since the late 1990s, as hardware has gotten cheaper and more integrated, hardware hacking largely fell off.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if the motivation to make your prom dress or your tuxedo shine is part of what helps you become literate in any programming language?” says Becky Stern, director of wearable technology at Adafruit Industries. She and her colleagues at Adafruit believe that donning your computing project as a garment is an even better way to get people interested in how computers work, because you’re literally wearing your project on your sleeve (and chances are, it’s probably full of flashing LEDs). It’s a more personal, more attention-worthy spin on the homebrew boxes of Wozniak vintage.
With wearable projects, Stern says, we can now feel, wear, and touch programming in ways we couldn’t before. “Part of our mission is to get young people and beginners to develop this technological skill set,” she says. “Instead of getting into electronics through plugging wires in, people can get interested from a textile point of view,” she says, opening up the hobby to “a broad range of people who wouldn’t even discover electronics otherwise.”
That’s why FastCo.Labs is kicking off this series of wearable computing stories, and why we’re hacking on the FLORA in-house to teach ourselves this new paradigm. The Nike FuelBand may be the first thing that comes to mind when people talk wearable computing, but the most impressive technical gear you can wear is the kind you custom-designed and built for yourself.
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Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.
Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.