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Things I'm working on and thinking about

Over the past few weeks I’ve been busily trying to determine what materials should actually be used in these kits. I’d taken for granted that an Arduino Uno would be involved, but after some feedback from my research group, I started to consider using something more like an ATTiny and essentially making the kit about the hardware, not the programming. But the ATTiny is, obviously, super tiny and I worried about how difficult it might be for some seniors to work with small chips.

I explored a little bit and found that Adafruit now makes their own version of the Lilypad and, along with it, a tiny version called Gemma. The main advantage of the wearable microcontrollers is that you can solder snaps to the pins. I’m inclined to believe that snaps would be easier for new users to see and manipulate, as opposed to the tiny Arduino pins and jumper wires. Another advantage over the ATTiny is that Gemma can be plugged right into the computer for programming. It’s a little trickier to upload sketches than an Arduino (and, annoyingly, requires a hub), but if I wanted to incorporate programming back into the kit, it would at least be possible.

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After some frustrations, I was able to get the Gemma working with a button on a breadboard and with a PIR sensor. Today I’m going to take the plunge and attempt to solder a snap onto one of the pins (and solder the other half of the snap to a wire).

One reason I like this direction for the project is that it’s (I think) a new use of a wearable microcontroller. Arduino kits are everywhere, but the Lilypad and Flora are pretty much geared only towards e-textile folks. I think they might actually be easier to use (in some ways) than the traditional Arduino.