& Materials for Creativity


Principal Investigator: Dr. Kylie Peppler

Project leads: Sophia Bender, Naomi Thompson, Diane Glosson, and Verily Tan

Associated website: Textile Messages blog

We are researching how to encourage youth (ages 10 to 18) to creatively engage with e-textiles in after-school and school settings. e-textiles integrate electronic circuits and computer technology with cloth, allowing designers to embed fabric-based items such as clothing, puppets, bags with electronics like LEDs, speakers, and wearable computers. Capitalizing on youths’ pre-existing interests in new media, fashion, and design, while supporting learning and creativity in computer science and engineering, this project encourages youth to contribute in meaningful ways to the emergent field of computational textile design.

Our lab is uncovering how e-textiles are potentially transformative both in terms of improving learning outcomes as well as broadening participation in STEM fields today.

Support for this project comes from the National Science Foundation (Grant #0855886) and the Proffitt Foundation

Other Related Projects

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Kit Testing for Gender Preferences

With this project, investigation of the affordances of e-textiles for circuitry learning expands to include four other commercially available circuitry kits, known as LittleBits, Snap Circuits, Squishy Circuits, and the Hand2Mind Electrical Circuits kit. Youth ages ages 5-15 from local Boys and Girls Clubs and charter schools are participating, exploring at least one kit in-depth. Data gathered here are meant to reveal which kits seem to better prepare students for engagement with circuitry in other forms. In addition to this, some students are being interviewed about their experiences with the kits. The interview questions are meant to uncover some of the underlying reasons circuitry and electronics can often be perceived as predominately male endeavors, and what may be equalizing factors about e-textiles and some of the other kits.


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Professional Development with Pittsburgh Teachers

Besides circuitry learning, e-textiles also provide opportunities to introduce programming to novice programmers, through the LilyPad Arduino sewable microcontroller. We are collaborating with a school district outside of Pittsburgh, PA to implement a LilyPad-centered e-textile project throughout the district's entire fourth grade. Students use the LilyPad ProtoSnap Development Board Simple and Modkit Micro programming software to program LED lights to flash and a buzzer to play music. Then they use conductive thread to sew the LilyPad, LEDs, and buzzer to a t-shirt or other clothing item, and thus have a computational wearable that they can take home. The district is also employing a pre/post computational thinking measure to use with this project. All this fits in well with the district's STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) Studio initiative.

Representative Publications