A workshop to explore wearable technology and learn how to program them using LED lights and a variety of sensors – a unique chance to see how code can be integrated into more areas than Future Makers realised previously. Even textiles can involve code!

For many Future Makers this was a very cool idea and they were amused by the opportunity to gain or use this skill . Many were new to sewing and lots of support was needed to make sure they didn’t get frustrated. Be sure to give a clear demonstration of how to sew and possibly allow time for the Future Makers to practice sewing before they begin to sew in the LilyPad components as making a mistake and having to start again can be disheartening. On the final day of the week long workshop, participants were free to go back to any activity and many chose to finish their hoodie.

This session covers:

  • Learn to program the Arduino LilyPad
  • Learn how sensors can be used to control electronics
  • Design and build your own wearable electronics.

“My only difficulty was sewing the lights into the hoodie, but that’s purely because I’m bad at sewing. So a bit of sewing practice is all that’s needed” Future Maker, 14


  • Arduino LillyPad ProtoSnap
  • Conductive thread and needles (supplied with LillyPad)
  • Hoodie or T-shirt, make sure to have a range of sizes suitable for the age group.
  • Crocodile Clips
  • Sticky Notes
  • Felt tip pens
  • A4 card
  • Scissors

Purchasing a set of ProtoSnaps to be mounted on perspex and remain intact would have been easier: for each participant purchase a small LiPo, LilyPad Simple, 5 LEDs and a USB cable adapter. This would allow for the sewing to be split up as indicated in the lesson plan, it would also reduce the cost per head for future sessions. With more time or more advanced learners you could introduce additional material around the different sensors.

Icebreaker (15 Minutes)

An icebreaker is a good way to get everybody moving and thinking at the start of the day.

  • Get all the Future Makers to stand in a circle and choose a theme of something interesting or topical (e.g, favourite song, sports you enjoy, the last game you played)
  • Go round the group and ask everybody to give one answer.
    Rule: you can’t say the same as somebody else, the aim is to come up with as many answers as we can find.
  • Then get the Future Makers to write their answers on sticky notes and post them on the wall. This time they can write as many answers as they like, the aim is to see patterns in how many people like the same things.

Programming the LilyPad (1 Hour)

In this activity Future Makers will write learn how to make the LEDs on the LilyPad flash using code.

Wearable05 - RC

1. Introduction to Arduino & GPIO

Arduino was originally made for product designers who needed to add functionality to prototypes. This session introduces analog and digital and describe how GPIO (general purpose input/output) pins essentially read or create voltages.

2. You can find the code for all the following steps in the clickable documentation.

When running this on a Mac there may be a security restriction. This is to stop you running code off the Internet from an unknown developer. Usually you can just override this by clicking run and giving it permission but for this software you need to change the security restrictions manually, go to: System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General >  and select Allow applications downloaded from anywhere. Open it once which adds it to the allowed apps list and set your security settings back to what they originally were.

3. Blinking LED: the simplest thing we can get on an Arduino.

Flash an LED on for a period and off for a period.
Introduce variables for pins and describe how the GPIO pins are set in the set up function and the code in loop iterates for ever.
Set the com port and board type.

4. Introduce the blink function

To make it easier to use multiple LEDs, describe the process of using a function to group together the four lines of code used to make the light flash.
Demo how parameters can be used to make the function more general.

6.  Now use our new function to make two (or more) different LEDs blink.

This is an example to reinforce the steps: set up var for LED pin, do some set up and then do something with it in the main loop.
You can use the blink function as many times with different values to create a light sequence.

Sewing for Wearable technology session 1 (45 Minutes)

Wearable18 - RC

Future Makers learn how to sew the Arduino Lilypad and LEDs into their hoodie or t-shirts creating an e-fabric.

Give a sewing overview / demonstration.
If using a garment like a hoodie or t shirt place a large piece of card inside to avoid stitching right through both sides. Be careful to pull thread taught and sew through the eyelets several times before tying them off and trimming any loose ends.

Use the Printable Sewing Diagram
to show how to sew in the Ground Rail. This is the common line, it’s purpose is to start at A2 and connect to the negative points on the LEDs.
Note: It is important to make sure that lines do not cross and that it is specifically the negative connections on the LED’s which are connected to the ground rail.


Lunch break (1 Hour)


Going Further (45 Minutes)

Now that you can programme and embed LED lights into fabric Future Makers can explore more advanced features of the Arduino Lilypad that they can develop at home.

Fading LED’s
Extend blink to use two for loops to build up and down the brightness of the LED. Make sure there is a short delay of around 1-10 ms to make fade perceivable.

LDR Input
We look at analog i/o. Use serial communication to obtain a value from the LDR and then feed this in to anaWearable24 - RClogy. Write to experiment with tones from the buzzer. Add in a print statement to show the value received by the serial monitor. Demo using LDR to control the tone played by the buzzer. LDR value read in, mapped to frequency range and the tone function used to play the tone.

Sewing for Wearable technology session 2 (45 Minutes)


Future Makers will continue to build their wearable electronic hoodies.

1. Sew between the positive connections on the LEDs and the Lilypad to complete the circuit.

2. Now the Future Makers can upload code to the Lilypad.

3. The wearable hoodie will then be complete.

Workshop Expert: Chris Martin @sspog

Click here for part 6 – Games Jam

Go part to part 5 – Wearable Technology