Soft Circuit Saturday at the Science Center

Last Saturday we opened our doors for the latest in our series of Soft Circuit (Second) Saturdays. This was the first in our new home at 3711 Market, after a long hiatus. Fortunately, during that time, half a dozen of the Hacktory’s organizers were able to take classes on soft circuits, run by Yasmin Kafai’s group at Penn. So we’re back at it, with projects to finish and new skills to teach.

Last Saturday, Christalee and I were finishing up our Chain Reaction Hoodies from Dr. Kafai’s class. These are sweatshirts with LEDs and a Lilypad Arduino sewn onto the back and conductive pads sewn to the cuff of each sleeve. When the circuit is closed, by touching the pads to each other or holding hands with another hoodie-wearer, the LEDs light according to patterns set in the Arduino’s code. Christalee’s LEDs have a soft heartbeat pulse when the sleeve-circuit is open, and blink more rapidly and more brightly when it is closed. I also finished making a carrying pouch for a set of wrenches—no electronics involved, unless you count the sewing machine. Tim put his new Flora through its paces.

One new person came in with questions about designing an all-analog white noise generator. Tim gave several suggestions for the noise source, including a transistor with floating base. I explained a bit about how op-amps work, and how to design a circuit using one to amplify the noise to audible levels.

Christalee also introduced NancyLee to soft circuits, with a tour of the Chain Reaction Hoodie Arduino code and circuit materials contributed by Brigid. NancyLee sewed an analog circuit in which an LED lights when the push-button is depressed, and turns off when it is released. We hope to see everyone back next month, and you too!

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