A Soft-Circuit Potentiometer Makes Music

I recently received some e-textile components in the mail from an Italian company called Plug and Wear (www.plugandwear.com).  In the interest of full disclosure, I should state that the company had seen my past posts on e-textiles and sent some sample products free of charge.  Free or no, e-textiles are pretty cool, and I’ve been enjoying experimenting with the items they shipped.

Soft Circuit Elements
Soft circuit elements sent by Plug and Wear

I received the five different items shown at left.    I was particularly interested in the conductive tape, which comes in a range of bright colors.  I was hoping to use it in lieu of conductive thread for a colorful project, but needed to know its conductivity before determining what to do with it.

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LED Matrix Shirt

LED Matrix Shirt
Shirt with a detachable LED Matrix panel. You can see the letter “P” and the beginning of the letter “O” for “PONG”.

After completing the Programmable LED Sweatshirt project with the Arduino LilyPad.  I was intrigued by the idea of a soft-circuit LED array that could be used as a scrolling message board and general purpose display.  With Halloween coming up, my son and I decided to make our own costumes.   We came up with the idea of a T-shirt containing an LED array that could scroll messages and display simple graphics.

Once we got the basic LED array working, we decided to add a small joystick to make our project interactive.

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Programmable LED Sweatshirt

Programmable LED Sweatshirt
Programmable LED Sweatshirt (the ‘dots’ are the lit-up LEDs)

I discovered e-textiles this past fall.  The Arduino LilyPad  is a micro controller designed to be included in clothing and other projects using soft circuits.  There are some interesting LilyPad projects online, such as Leah Buchleys turn signal jacket,  this jacket with an LED array, and this LED Matrix quilt by Katie Dektar.  Reading about these projects inspired me to try one myself.  I know the basics of sewing, so I figured that part wouldn’t be too bad, and I was interesting in learning more about micro controllers like the LilyPad.

Since my FIRST LEGO Leauge (FLL) team (I hope to write about FLL in a different post) had an upcoming tournament, I decided to make a light-up sweatshirt with our team’s logo.  I didn’t document the construction process at the time, so there are no photographs of the work in progress, however the project is simple enough that you can easily see how it works by viewing the final result.

The step-by-step process and results of this project are below:

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