It’s Finals Time! Making Sense Of Work In A Post-Trump America

Remember these days?
Remember these days?
Reality check.

SO that happened. Election + results = awful, (for me, personally, and many people that I know and love, and even more people that I don’t know and will be effected even more drastically) and suddenly literally everything seemed trivial in the face of a grave international disaster.

Originally I was exploring use of the facial recognition library in order to read faces in a sketch and play back/generate relevant content for the consumer. (For example: Person comes up to computer, computer reads SAD, computer plays back empathetic music and suggests a few websites/exercises to help cope with SAD). But after the election, this didn’t seem like a particularly meaningful or inspiring project (even though there are probably a lot of SADS who could use some cheering up right now).

Alongside this, I was also developing a PCOMP project with my my collaboration partner Oriana. We were working on wearables, specifically a bodysuit with a touch-activated light response system. After play testing on Wednesday November 9 aka The Day After, we realized we were not at all interested or inspired by what we were generating.

So we pivoted.



Our Idea

Create a piece that comments on the unique lexicon that has been cultivated and utilized specifically towards female-presenting individuals, and explore the violent and prohibitive effect it has on their often marginalized or reduced roll in society.



Working with dancer Elizabeth White, we will choreograph a piece that involves the same form factors as our original PCOMP final project, but with a different message. She will be in the same light-activated body suit, but attached to strings. The strings will be attached to sensors. At the start of the piece, the suit will be fully illuminated, but each time a string is pulled, it will trigger a P5 sketch to run that will both turn off the light attached to that area of the dancer, and trigger word clouds, quotations and negative sound bites to activate either on screen or through speakers. When the light goes out, the dancer also loses agency of the limb to which it is attached.

Eventually the dancer will crumble to the floor and be motionless.






Drawing from personal experience and the news media, we will compile a dataset of sound clips, individual words, and quotations. They will be divided into four subsets: Career, Parenting, Sex, Public Space. Each subset will demonstrate certain terminologies used specifically for women in these arenas, with supporting content in the mediums mentioned above.




Eventually, the dancer will regain strength through a series of touch sequences in which she is on the receiving end of more positive terminologies, and well regain agency of her limbs with the help of positive and empowering words.


How To Playtest In A Post-Apocalyptic World

Well, it’s November 9th and the world didn’t physically explode, but we do have one of the most revolting humans in recent history as president elect. How do we get past that? Well, we playtest:

Bill Of Materials





Our schematic isn’t *close* to being complete and/or accurate. It’s a mere representation of the types of materials we may be using and the potential behaviors they might exibit. As we haven’t finalized the hardware we will use for our wearables to communicate, nor the structure of the feedback mechanism, we will be relying heavily on in-class playtesting to observe the most natural course of action for our users.

How To: Make A Temperature Sensing Necklace For Safe Partying


Reinforced sewing
Reinforced sewing



Collaborators: Oriana Neidecker


As mentioned in last week’s midterm brief, I am interested in wearables, soft circuits, and movement; and my partner is interested in wearables as well -particularly those that aid the wearer’s health.

A soft circuit with a switch that I worked on at the beginning of October. The small square of metal fabric on the bottom is a pouch holding a battery. The flap of fabric on top is a switch that closes the circuit when pressed down.

Our Goal for our midterm project was to make a necklace that measures various vitals of the wearer, ie temperature, heart rate, etc. and displays fun, ambient lighting until set thresholds are passed for each vital being read. Once the threshold is passed, the necklace displays a different signal that alerts the friends of the wearer that their friend should be watched over. If additional thresholds are passed, the lighting of the necklace changes with increased urgency until all lights on the necklace are blinking urgent red, signifying that the wearer is in need of immediate medical assistance.

What We Actually Did Create We succeeded in creating a soft circuit necklace that accurately reads the temperature of the wearer and  displays flashing red lights (as opposed to ambient mood lighting) whenever the wearer’s temperature exceeds a set temperature threshold.

What Got Left Behind For ease of use, we decided to limit the readings being taken by the necklace (or choker -so trendy right now) to temperature alone. We also limited the stages for the lights being displayed to simply “having a fever” or “not having a fever”. We did this for a few reasons:

  1. We were warned by several sources that the lilypad pulse sensor we were planning on using was notoriously temperamental. (Indeed -even the most advanced products like the apple watch still have trouble reading pulse).
  2. Unforseen complications with our code discouraged us from spending more time on it, and we decided to kill our darlings in favor of producing a better finished product.



Materials & Tools

Felt, Velcro, Hot Glue Felt is the most forgiving fabric to sew conductive thread. We used a simple velcro attachment in order to easily remove the front of the choker.

-Conductive Thread We used 3 ply adafruit medium conductive thread, which was the strongest, thickest thread that was still relatively flexible.

-Neopixels We decided we wanted to work with neopixels as opposed to dumb LEDs, and that we wanted to do so with individual neopixels as opposed to using a strip; this offered more versatility in the form and also lent itself to a greater understanding of the neopixels themselves.

-Microcontroller We wanted to use a Lily Tiny (pictured below) but our project would work with any microcontroller with analog output/digital input capabilities.

-Lillypad Temperature Sensor This was the smallest wearable sensor we could find on the market, and our research told us it was reliable.


We also soldered our sensor to stranded core wire from the output for a more accurate read:


-Wire Strippers, Foam (for prototyping board), Solder, Alligator Clips, Wires, Stranded Core Wire We needed stranded core wire for its flexibility and in order to sew

Running our first neopixel strand test after an hour of neopixel tutorials and coding.
Running our first neopixel strand test after an hour of neopixel tutorials and coding. You can tell we’re excited. #soundon


Of Note We learned we needed to download the neopixel library in order to run various strand tests and start programming the neopixels. We also had a few learning moments when it came to doing things like:

  • tripple checking your port
  • selecting the proper microcontroller
  • reviewing the types of microcontrollers that best serve your project before ordering them because…

Our lily tiny microcontroller wouldn’t work.

Our little engine that couldn’t 🙁

I just wouldn’t. We scheduled sessions with two different residents and they couldn’t get it to work either. Lesson learned: research your parts to see whether a) the community that uses said controllers have good things to say about it. Something like “this microcontoller works and I like it because it’s also easy to use” would have been perfect.


We decided that once we got out neopixels up and running, and that we were acquainted enough with the code, it was time to set up our prototyping board. This is what it looked like:

Partial setup of prototype with alligator clips.
Partial setup of prototype with alligator clips.


We used foam board with conductive thread and pins to replicate the setup that we'd use in our wearable.
We used foam board with conductive thread and pins to replicate the setup that we’d use in our wearable.
Neopixel closeup
Neopixel closeup


Here’s a video of our working prototype:


Printing the temperature sensor output.
Printing the temperature sensor output.

Transferring To Wearable

Now that our prototype was working, it was time to transfer the prototype to our wearable. This involved careful planning:

Mapping out our wearable.
Mapping out our wearable.
Not your mother’s sewing circle.

Transferring the prototype to the wearable was probably the most challenging part of the project. It involved many false starts, redos, and tons of conductivity testing:




Finally, it worked:



Pro Tip Don’t wear a necklace under your choker:

“It’s burning.”

But now it’s working.


What We Learned

Hey! Wearables are difficult. Conductive thread, though super flexible and even pretty to see from a design standpoint, is not always the most reliable medium.

If I were to start this project over, I think I would have definitely made a point of researching the types of sensors I was going to use more extensively beforehand. Though our sensor worked the majority of the time, it would also get overloaded and start spitting nonsense on our reader.

On the whole, I am definitely more comfortable with soft fabrication now. Particularly with conductive thread and sewing soft circuits, and also converting those soft circuits to hard circuits. I also learned how to solder!

Midterms, Commence


Collaboraters: Oriana Neidecker

This week we met to discuss the possibilities for our midterm assignment.

I have a strong interested in wearables and both Oriana and I have a strong interest in movement. The idea:

Create both a necklace and/or wristband prototype that is easily movable and measures the temperature of the wearer. If the temperature of the wearer exceeds a set danger point, the necklace/wristband will blink.

Part I: Brainstorming



Part II: Materials Exploration







Part III: Concept & Execution

necklace-1 necklace-2



Synthesis Session

This week we experimented for the first time with serial communication in our Synthesis Session. My partner and I mapped a potentiometer to the mouseX function in some code, that opened and closed a window and started and stopped some rain. Then, for good measure, we added a photo of Dan Schiffman for the heck of it. This was our process:


We started with a push sensor, and that didn’t work out so well because it was a bit wonky to the touch and couldn’t achieve the sliding effect we wanted. (Or at least, not without some additional coding we were worried we wouldn’t have time for.

Then, we switched to a potentiometer because we thought we might have a bit more control, which was correct, but the data wasn’t buffering as effectively.

We added a serial read function so that we could see if our input was sliding gradually.

We realized we were having a buffering problem, and restarted the p5 serial control app. The result was a much more controlled manifestation of the sensor.

This was an exciting week in Physical Computing, because for the first time we are finally starting to hint at the full scope of what we’ll be able to do now that we understand (at least a little bit) about how to make machines talk to one another. It’ll be exciting to see what the rest of the semester brings.

PComp: Servos & Resistors & Sensors Oh My!

Here’s the servo lab that we completed in class, that I was successfully able to replicate on my own.  I set the parameters fro 10-170 deg. Here’s the code:

//turn servo

int analogValue = analogRead(potPin);
int mappedValue = map (analogValue, 0,1023, 10, 170);
myServo.write (mappedValue);

I also successfully replicated the sound lab that we did last week, this time with light sensitive resistors:

Unfortunately (and dumbly) I didn’t check my video after I recorded so I don’t have the tone changing as I held my hand over the photo sensitive resistors. But I promise it did.


Finally, I completed the lab with three sound features, though my final push sensor wasn’t as great sounding:

I’m excited to apply these new possibilities to a project. So satisfying when the function *actually* works…

Everyday Interactive

These are trying times. The United States is a country perhaps more greatly divided than any time since the Gilded Age. Problems seem too large to solve, questions remain unanswered. Most important, and most hopeless among them:

Chip or swipe?

Having lived in Europe the chip card was not ucharted territory for me. Simple enough transactions involving a credit card are executed over the course of approximately ten seconds of relatively low level interaction with a small touch screen. 

But now the world’s teenage son is trying to adopt the same practice and it’s been a bit of an issue. 


Where am I supposed to put my card? One blue light signal on the swipe side of the portal indicated (or so I thought) that was the correct spot for my card. 

-Bonus confusion: the wireless chip sensor panel on top of the card reader -when can I use that? The sign indicates I have to download an app and then I can scan “to pay with the app”, but there are still several steps between me and that action that are a bit too obtuse. 

Anyway, I swipe. 

I’m wrong. The salesperson indicates that I should insert my card “since I have a chip”. Dos the machine know that? How did the salesperson know? They haven’t seen my card so they’re probably seeing it on their screen. Which begs the question, why can’t the machine recognize that and prompt me to switch my card input to the proper portal?

This happens about five times a week to me, to people around me, and the rules are always different. I’ve seen business owners tape over the chip card reader to disable use; I’ve seen other business owners make their own signs and attach them to the credit card machine. I’ve seen others simply lie and say their machine is broken so could you please pay cash. 

The biggest problem is clearly inconsistency. There have been better versions of the chip card technology -readers that give instructions on their display screen; readers that accept both forms of input et al. 

Really America, get it together. I’m not the only one. And you’re holding up the line at Whole Foods.