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Textile Messages

Dispatches From the World of E-Textiles and Education


Edited By Leah Buechley, Kylie Peppler, Michael Eisenberg and Yasmin Kafai

Textile Messages focuses on the emerging field of electronic textiles, or e-textiles – computers that can be soft, colorful, approachable, and beautiful. E-textiles are articles of clothing, home furnishings, or architectures that include embedded computational and electronic elements. This book introduces a collection of tools that enable novices – including educators, hobbyists, and youth designers – to create and learn with e-textiles. It then examines how these tools are reshaping technology education – and DIY practices – across the K-16 spectrum, presenting examples of the ways educators, researchers, designers, and young people are employing them to build new technology, new curricula, and new creative communities.
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I clearly remember the first time I encountered e-textiles. At the time, I was a high school student who was passionate about the arts and liked math and science classes. Nearing the end of my senior year, I was trying hard to find a way to combine these interests and also figure out where to go for college. While touring MIT, I serendipitously ended up on a tour of the Media Lab. To a teenager who desperately wanted to find a way to be both artistic and scientific, walking into this lab was life-changing. Of all the wonders I saw that day, I can clearly remember the one that had the biggest impact: It was a denim jacket. A jacket with an embroidered interface that allowed the wearer to play music. (This jacket is discussed in Chapter 16.) At the time, I had not heard of e-textiles. All I knew was that I desperately wanted to create things like that. I wanted to know how it worked. There was something delightfully magical, and inviting about this combination of technology and craft, even to a teenager who had never touched a soldering iron or programmed a computer.

I attended MIT, in part because of the above visit, but worked with propellers and underwater robots rather than e-textiles. Nearly a decade later, as an engineering professor trying to find an engaging project that would give students hands-on experience with basic electronics, I came across Leah Buechley’s LED tank...

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