Tech DIY takes a soft touch toward teaching electronics—literally. Now on Kickstarter, the kit uses sewing to teach kids and adult beginners about electronic and electric circuits by sewing dolls, soft figures and bracelets that light up, move and make noises.
Tech DIY was created by Ji Sun Lee and Jaymes Dec, the authors of “Tech DIY, Easy Electronics Projects for Parents and Kids,” published in 2016 by Maker Media. While working on her master’s thesis and thinking of ways to close the gender gap in technology, Lee began exploring the idea of using textile crafts to teach electronics for her master’s thesis.
Dec is a fab lab teacher at a girls’ private school, while Lee is a professor at a women’s college in Korea. “I also worked in the IT industry for many years, where it had very few women employees. Although both of us teach technology, we feel that the educational content created for female users is minimal and marginalized,” Lee said.
Lee and Dec decided to use sewing for their projects since many women and girls are already familiar with textile crafts. There are already kits that combine electronics with textiles, like Lily Pad and Adafruit’s Flora, which both use Arduino, but the programming required for their micro-controllers is too complicated for most novices, Lee said. Tech DIY’s kits are designed for elementary and middle school students, as well as adult beginners. They can be built with basic sewing skills and the projects increase in complexity, allowing new makers to level up.
Two kits are available for Kickstarter backers. The Joy Kit contains five projects, including an embroidery sampler called My Happy House that teaches about electricity, circuits and basic electronic components, and the Purring Elephant, a pillow that uses a motor to move and vibrate. The Awesome Kit is for more experienced makers and includes components for projects like the Nightlight Cat Bracelet, which uses a light sensor and transistor to light up in the dark, and the Solar Sun Project, powered with solar panels instead of batteries. (If you want to see how the projects are put together, check out the instructions for A Silly Ghost, the Nightlight Cat Bracelet and Purring Elephant Bracelet, which are all available for free online.)
The kits include all necessary components for the projects, thick, high-quality felt and what Lee and Dec describe as the “best conductive thread on the planet.”
As of this post, the Kickstarter campaign has reached more than $18,300 of its $30,000 goal, with less than two days left. After the campaign, Lee and Dec plan to make kits available for sale through Etsy. While Maker Media, the publisher of “Tech DIY, Easy Electronics Projects for Parents and Kids,” recently paused operations due to financial issues, the book is still available for purchase as a PDF through Maker Shed or as a Kindle edition or paperback on Amazon.