This project began when our dance teacher, Megan Minturn, sent me a video of a Korean Dance group performing in costumes covered in bright lights. She wanted to know if it was possible for her students to create similar costumes. This was shortly before I was to begin teaching a summer enrichment class for which I had a decent budget and few curricular restrictions. It was time to experiment!
I'm always looking for low stakes opportunities to try out new technology or projects. Most good projects come with at least some potential for failure. The potential is greater for new projects, especially when unfamiliar technology is involved. I prefer to test new tools and ideas with a small group first. This can be in class with a small reliable group, during a before or after school club, or during summer school. This lets me develop a sense of how long it will take, and determine the most likely spots at which students will become stuck or frustrated. This makes it much easier generate the support structures necessary to manage the wonderful chaos of an open ended project with a larger group.
I began the summer school class by showing the same video of the Korean Dance group, and told the students we were going to test out some wearable technology. We played with color sensors, accelerometers, GPS chips, as well a a variety of LED's. Two groups ended with functional wearable prototypes (seen above) using Flora microcontrollers and NeoPixel LED's from Adafruit, while a third veered off in the direction of creating a "smart house" which uses a series of sensors to efficiently manage environmental conditions and security. A fourth group embarked upon creating a GPS watch which was briefly functional, but proved to remarkably fragile: a successful failure in my book.