It’s called a LilyPad Arduino, and designer Leah Buechley and a team of educators and scientists plan to show more than 400 students how to combine it with traditional fabric arts to create computational textiles—computers embedded into fabrics. Buechley, director of the “High-Low Tech Group” at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, developed the LilyPad Arduino microcontroller board, which has electronic parts that can be sewn onto clothing to project light, produce sound or perform other technical operations.
The National Science Foundation provided a three-year grant to bring scientists and art educators from Indiana University, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania together to blend learning and creativity. The grant team will bring aspects of physics, engineering, computer programming, art, clothing design and fabrication skills into after-school educational settings. LilyPad Arduinos have been used to program built-in turn signals on a biking jacket, a sewing machine that can be used as a printer and an exhibit simulating the experience of being inside a human body.