Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab
Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab

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Iteration Assignment

Original Work

I created a very poor implementation of a circuit design that I was very proud of. In the below video, I discuss issues with the quality of my implementation –

  • poorly secured battery, and a
  • poor work-around to prevent the battery from draining, and
  • poor connections between components.

Iteration Project

I wanted to create a name tag, that was a wooden cube with a button on the top, and this button would turn on an LED. It would incorporate wood working, and circuit design. My plan was to redeem my poor copper circuit by addressing its issues in the following ways.

  • Secure my battery in place with superglue (I verified that this was safe).
  • Secure connections between components with Soldering rather than tightly wrapped copper tape
  • Circuit design where open circuit when button is unpressed, so that battery does not drain

Additionally, for the button design, I drew inspiration from Brandon’s Midi Controller project. I used the same design process and parameters as he did, and arrived at a well functioning ‘button’ with my name tag on it.

I also soldered the wires of my LED circuit to my LED. This was my first experience with soldering – my friends in Mechanical Engineering taught me to solder, and I took it from there. It was a rewarding process, I was surprised at how easily the solder material would melt and reform, and impressed by how secure the connections it created were.

I investigated and determined it was safe for me to solder one of the wires to the coin cell battery I was using (my initial plan was to secure it with copper tape). I soldered the black wire to the bottom of my battery.

My plan was that when the button was pushed, the battery would be directly beneath the button, and the button would make the blue wire touch the top of the battery and complete the circuit.

An issue I had was that if I just taped the blue wire to the base of mu button and pressed the button, it wouldn’t always reliably complete the circuit. I needed to always push the button at the location where the blue wire was taped below, so that that point was the lowest point and touched the battery.

I needed to create a larger surface area for the button to complete the circuit. So instead of the button pushing the end of the blue wire onto the button, it would push a copper tape onto the button. The copper tape would secure well to the button, and would ensure that it would have a larger area of contact with the button.

I had to find a way to connect the blue wire to the copper tape however, and here my MechE friends pointed out to me that I can solder the blue wire onto my copper tape! I was so excited about this possibility, I tried it and it worked perfectly. I am now a huge fan of soldering.

After I stick the tape to the bottom of my button, the full circuit looks like this.

To create the sides of my cube, I used popsicle sticks, and cut them down to the right size using a wood saw. Here’s how the finished product functions!


I’m very happy with how this project turned out. To test that I met my goals, I threw my cube against a wall and shook it in my hand very hard (in an attempt to loosen the connections. The soldered connections stayed intact, the heaviest component (the battery) was tightly secured with superglue, and the connection was always completed (irrespective of where my finger was positioned on the button) due to the larger surface area provided by the copper tape.

I’m glad that I was able to address all the shortcomings of my earlier copper tape project and create a much more reliable design.

My woodworking could use more finesse, however.

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Arduino Jacket – Final Project

Question 1

I integrated a computer into my jacket, so that I could play a game on my jacket sleeve!

I used an Adafruit Flora as the computer that controlled the game, and I used sewable circuitry – particularly conductive thread, sewable LEDs and conductive fabric as the inputs and outputs of my game.

A big focus of this project was that this was my only denim jacket – I wear it a lot. I wanted my computer+game design to be robust against the normal usage conditions of the jacket. I roll it up clip it onto my bag, or I wear it on the nasty subway, or I wear it when it is raining. I wanted the computer to be safe from the dangerous environment, and I also wanted to be able to wear the jacket in all the normal situations that I’d wear it in.

I decided that the computer will be positioned inside one of my jacket pockets. That way

  1. it is not exposed to the external environment, AND, 
  2. if it gets loose and falls off, it safely falls into my pocket, and not on the ground.

The computer is still a very delicate item, so despite the pocket safety measure, I wanted the option to remove the computer in a modular fashion. Traditionally, the Flora computer is sewn onto the textile (this would be tough to modularly remove a sewn on item). Instead, I attached the Flora to my jacket with snappable buttons (now its modular, I can unsnap the buttons attaching the item to the fabric).

The way this works is that the LEDs and buttons are sewn onto my fabric with conductive thread. The electricity on these threads is supplied by my computer. so these same threads from the LEDs need to connect to my computer. Instead, the LED threads are attached to the male ends of snappable buttons, which are sewn onto my fabric. The female ends of the buttons are attached to the input/output pins of my Flora computer. When I want to create an electrical connection between the LED thread and my computer, I join the male and female ends of the snappable buttons. The buttons conduct electricity and act as an interface between the computer and the thread sewn into the fabric!

I initially planned to solder the female ends of the buttons onto my computer. The solder would act as a “conductive glue” between the computer and button. This was a hard task, and the force exerted by the button-unsnapping process would always break the solder-connection I had created. I spent a lot of time trying to perfect my soldering process before I gave up. This was the biggest challenge of this project.

I’m most proud of how I solved this problem. Originally, The solder was acting as a “glue”, and a “conductor”. Instead, I used superglue as the glue, and conductive thread as the conductor!

With this method, I circumvent another issue. Some snap buttons can be large, and they run the risk of either touching adjacent buttons or touching adjacent I/O ports. As seen in the above picture, I can glue some buttons far away from their respective I/O port and adjacent button, to ensure there’s no accidental touching of circuitry. I just need to create a longer connection between button and port with the conductive thread.

Question 2

My learning goals were to 1) work with electronic textiles, and 2) also work on a project design that is entirely my own and iterate that design.

I believe I successfully accomplished both goals. I invested a lot of time into understanding how conductive thread and sewable circuitry works, I looked at many different implementations to understand the best practices, and I practiced my sewing technique and improved it majorly also. I hoped to learn how to properly “think” about a sewing project – what are the challenges, what difficult decisions need to be made, how to problem solve on a sewing project. I did learn those things, and I also unintentionally learned how to fix or undo sewing mistakes!

For my second goal, my whole project was my own conception, I borrowed the concept of making the Flora modular with snappable buttons, but I iterated that design by using superglue and conductive thread instead of solder. My design involved 2 types of circuits, so I made sure to sew those circuits into a woodframe and test that my technique would work correctly. After finishing sewing any thread line or snap button or any electric component, I stopped to ensure that the electric connection was still “correct” and worked. This allowed me to catch mistakes early, fix my technique and not repeat those mistakes.

I’m very happy with project, specifically because of how rewarding the learning process was.

I invested a lot more mental, physical, critical effort in the process of learning, and then I felt smart when I applied my new knowledge.

Question 3

What really stands out to me upon re-reading past write-ups is that I was very conservative with my projects. I was afraid of failure, so I tried to structure my projects around the simplest techniques that had the least scope for errors. It shows because I rarely ran into road-blocks and was rarely forced to think laterally and problem solve. I would instead try to change my project to fit the outcomes of my practices.

With this final project, the requirement of formulating a challenging proposal within the structures of the two chosen learning goals was very helpful. It made me iterate my technique and process to fit the project instead of vice versa.

I really feel much more confident as a maker now – I understand now that failure isn’t such a big setback, and that working on sub-samples of the problem will allow me to catch my failures earlier and spend lesser time overall. Because of this, I feel comfortable trying new techniques and incorporating creativity into my problem solving.

Question 4

People often say that your life can turn out completely different than what you plan out of college. You can work on something thats entirely outside your major, and you can be working in a work culture that you didn’t think you’d enjoy. I could not see myself in this position, adapting to my environment and pivoting my life’s direction. Its a little extreme, but I feel differently now.

Working on this project, I’ve shown myself that I can work in a domain outside my expertise (sewing and textile) and adapt and excel. Additionally, I can make a new domain my own by incorporating my expertise in other domains. I didn’t see myself having such flexibility, but now I think my mind has opened to the possibility. I was a little scared about making E-Textile the focus of my project, but I handled it just fine. Now, I wont say “No” based on my prior judgment, because I have the potential to surprise myself. I believe being a “maker” also means not saying “no”.  You have to be able to think on your feet and “find a solution” in the making process.

I learnt the E-textile process by working hands-on on a project that was personally meaningful to me. Both factors really accelerated the rate at which I learned e-textile. I cannot think of another circumstance that would have been more conducive to my learning process. I feel so confident in my abilities to sew circuits into fabric right now.

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Bat Plushie – Sewing and Digital Embroidery

Before the Bat 

We were first taught sewing by sewing along some guidelines on a scrap piece of cloth. I felt that by the end of this practice, I had gotten the hang of using the sewing machine to sew curved lines. Results below.

We then sewed a drawstring bag. As I expected, I followed the sewing instructions successfully. However, I didn’t expect the results to be as good as they were.

I was surprised by how simple the sewing instructions were (just sewing along 2-3 different straight lines repetitively), and the concept of sewing inside out and later flipping your project right-side out was mind-blowing.

The Bat

I asked my girlfriend to pick what to make – and she chose the bat plushie. The project required fleece in one primary color, and an alternate color for the insides of the ears.

Most of the fleece available were in very bright solid colors. I did find one roll of black fleece, so I decided to use that as the primary body color. I found another roll of fleece that had a colorful floral pattern. My girlfriend likes flowers, so I thought this would make a good alternate ‘pattern’ rather than any of the other solid color options.

I happened to like the floral fleece a lot as an alternate color. I decided to also use it on the bat’s wings.

Top Left: Wing 1 – Front floral, Back black Top Right: Wing 2 – Front black, Back floral Bottom Left: Ear 1 – Front floral, Back black Bottom Right: Body – Front/Back black

The face required features to be ironed on. I cut them out from felt. This is how it looked.

I then began sewing the backs and fronts of each ear, and I was very happy with how they turned out

However, if you’ll notice both the ears, they are pointed in the same direction, but have the same color on the front side. On they head, the ears go in different directions. This implies that when I eventually attach these ears in the correct direction to the head, one ear will have the floral pattern on the inner side, and another ear will have the black color on the inner side.

At first I thought this was unfortunate. But I later felt that this could be a cooler look. I decided I would make the wings different also – if the right side ear had floral on the inner side, the right side wing would have the floral on its back side.

I had to “baste” a fold on the ears. This confused me a lot, but I determined that this simply meant I need to sew a single line and hold a fold in place. For me, this was any normal sew I was doing.

It is important to note that when I was sewing a fold into the ears, I was sewing into 4 layers of fleece. It was extremely thick and wouldn’t easily pass under the sewing-foot-bed-thing. Every sewing from this point forward in this project involved more than 4 layers of material. They were very difficult – involved me pushing the material downward to fit under the sewing-foot-bed-thing, and also pushing the material forward since the sewing machine wasn’t able to pull and move my material on it’s own. On top of this, when you throw in curved stitches, its not going to end well.

This is how sewing the ears onto the head turned out.

Next steps were finishing the wings, adding top-stitches on them to simulate a bat’s webbed wings and add definition.

One very challenging step when when I had attached my finished wings to one side of the body, and then needed to attach the second side of the body to the first. This involved sewing the body pieces together with the wings folded and tucked inside. The body then had to be turned right-side out to get the wings on the outside of the body. I was most worried that while I was stitching the body shut with the wings tucked inside, I would accidentally stitch the wings down to the body. They would then be stuck inside the body and I wouldn’t be able to pull them out. I finally avoided that, but the sewing wasn’t pretty or easy.

Up till this point, I actually was very excited about what I was making, and I was very confident that it would turn out very well. The black and pattern stuff was working out so well, and I was happy with how the felt face features had been successfully ironed onto the face. From here forwards, things took a turn for the worse.

Next step was attaching the back of the face to the front of the face (the front had the ears and face features). I had to sew in a circle along the edges of the face, and also occasionally sew over the ears also. So this involved sewing in a long continuous curve, and occasionally forcing the machine to sew over 6 layers of material (4 layers from ear and 2 layers of face). I wasn’t able to follow a perfect circle along the edge of the face. I sewed inwards too far, and the result is that the face is not perfectly circular. It’s almost triangle shaped.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) I have no pictures from these steps. I finally needed to attach the head to the body at the neck. I had to first sew half of the circle of the neck. Then fill the head and body with stuffing. After that, I had to hand-sew the remaining half of the neck-circle. I’ve never hand-sewn before.

Annnd now the final result, with the triangle head and the badly hand-sewn neck.

On the bright side, I ended up learning a lot about hand-sewing. I had to go back and fix a lot of sections of the neck that I hadn’t sewn securely enough. I think I taught myself how to “fix” things with sewing by the end of this. So that’s cool.

The Embroidery

My girlfriend likes reading books and playing The Sims. Since I was making this plushie for her, I wanted to incorporate both those things into an embroidery that I could later stick to the bat’s body.

I feel like I’m getting better with InkScape now. I measured the bat’s body and it was 1.5 inches big, so thats how big I made my embroidery patch. It is a book with the green Sims diamond on its cover. The colors involved were blue for the pages, black for borders, red for the book cover, green for the Sims diamond.

While picking string colors, I switched them for colors that my girlfriend picked. We went with a purple book cover and light blue diamond.

I then ironed the embroidered patch onto the body.

Surprisingly, the patch bonded very well to the body with the help of Heat-N-Bond.

I might use my hand-sewing skills to secure the edges better.

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Ranvit – Vinyl Sticker

I really enjoyed the Griffin assignment – the result of my combination of shapes turned out more perfectly than I could’ve imagined.
I wanted to combine two distinctive animal shapes together, I went with a dolphin and a giraffe.

I had a couple of errors – The positioning of my image in SilhouetteStudio was off, and a little portion of the top of my sticker couldn’t get printed on to the vinyl itself.
Also, instead of removing the surrounding vinyl, I removed my shape itself 😛
As you can see however, the dolphin/giraffe combination looks hilarious and also very clean.

The process of using transfer tape, and using it to work with the three stickers was SO COOL. I felt like I was doing very complex stuff by putting down a transfer tape with sticker 1 and picking up sticker 2.
the results were great, and I cant wait to work on my self-designed layered sticker.

Self designed sticker

I wanted to work off of the following leafeon image.


It was difficult, but I arrived at the following layers and outlines. I had to make sacrifices such as leaving out certain shapes, and also having overlap of certain lines in 3 layers. I tried various combinations of Object difference/intersection/division, but couldn’t arrive at a set of layers that were perfectly split and grouped by color.

Once I printed them out, and then stripped the background layer from each sticker. This step was very challenging since there were many thin lines – I had to use a pencil and an easy-cutter to properly lift off the background while keeping the foreground stuck down.

They looked like so.

I then had to use transfer tape to gather these layers together. This also proved to be challenging from an alignment aspect. Each color was not positioned in correct alignment against the lines in other colors. The result is there are imperfectly aligned lines and shapes in my final sticker. I still dont mind – I kind of like the effect it creates.

I also couldn’t find a color close enough to match the body of the Leafeon, so I chose a shiny color to represent a “Shiny Leafeon”.

After this Leafeon project, I feel like I have a better grasp of Silhouette Studio, and what kinds of shapes and lines are easier to work with. I feel confident that I can translate cool sticker ideas I have into reality.

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Ranvit – Laser Name Tag

For my name tag, I was very interested in testing out how precise a laser cutter could be. I initially wanted to incorporate a very intricate silhouette – like the one below.

However, I began thinking about vectoring such a design – just to kick it up a notch and work with negative spaces in the design. However, I was worried that a very thin vectored pattern could be susceptible to breakage.

So I wanted to make a simpler, thicker pattern that I’d want vectored and cut out.

I have been playing basketball for 10 years and I’ve watched basketball religiously for 4 – so I wanted to incorporate this into my name tag.

I began drawing my basketball shape, since I couldn’t figure out how to do this with ellipses alone.

My iterative process.
First I was hand drawing – then a volunteer showed me how to invert a trace, and I arrived at neater solutions

I then realized that I could work with 2 layers – first layer contains the silhouette of basketball lines, and I could paste this onto a second layer that contained text, which fit within the silhouette lines!

I made the basketball lines in the second layer GREEN with Raster/Vector, so that the lines would be Rastered, but using the vector path algorithm.
It was very cool seeing the laser do Raster/Vector.

The 2 layers!
I wanted to do black lines, and an orange background, both on acrylic.
However, I really liked the idea of using multiple materials also, so I made the background out of plywood.

I then used superglue to glue them together to get my finished product

Jeremy was the volunteer who helped me out with my design process and implementation. I was talking through my ideas with him. I originally wanted a singular layer, with the basketball-holes-silhouette, and my info on the rest of the name tag.
It was Jeremy’s idea to use 2 layers, and write my info on the second layer. Hats off to him.

He also recommended setting a slower speed while Rastering my wood, so that I would get a deeper etch. I felt like this was important since my name tag already has depth from using 2 layers.

I’m beyond satisfied with how my project came out, and thinking through my ideas and implementation with Jeremy BEFORE I started any printing was vital to the success of this on the very first try.

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First Attempt

I was happy with how this image came out – my drawing skills surprised me, and I thought that this storyboard did a good job of conveying the story.
However, while creating it, I felt that I spent more time writing out text, rather than drawing. I was using words to convey the environment, the context and the resulting emotions.

Second Attempt

While iterating, I wanted to stick to the main concept of my original image – that people are trying to interact with a waiter at a restaurant, and this interaction is not straightforward and easy. I managed to convey this in my very first panel.
I felt that my second panel does a good job of introducing the solution, and also introducing the consequences of this solution – now the goal of interacting with a waiter is realized through the table-technology.

Certainly my second image is very visually unappealing – from using a lined page and not using a fat marker. However, I feel that it has a higher utility than my first image. The second image is easier and quicker to parse through and I believe that it conveys all the same thoughts that my original image did.

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