Winter Show 2015- post reflection

The Winter Show was an amazing success for us. It was the first time our microcontroller was consistently working, not to mention the longest we have ever used it.

Days leading up to the show I never thought I’d finished the final product of the gloves. I was still very nervous for the day of the Winter Show if they would last the two days. We had a variety of users from tall men to very young children, all fit their hands nicely in the gloves.

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Right before the show began I add two more pieces of non-conductive velcro, which was helpful to wear the cape without using the battery. Although I was super pleased with the final iteration of the cape, it didn’t have the best functionality with the game. Once a user began moving their arms to fly, the cape more often than not, slipped off.

When we discovered that the cape was hindering users to play the game with a lot of movement, I began having the cape act as a reward. Once someone, usually a child finished the game, they were rewarded with the cape as a symbol of being a superhero.

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I learned an incredible amount from this project. Eve and I were super proud with the result. I know truly understand why everyone says to start early. That’s a lesson best learned with experience, especially with the fabrication aspects of the project. I am excited to continue learning about wearables, coding, and fabricating more in the upcoming semester.

Leading up to final presentation

After last week’s playtesting, my main goal for the next week was to more accurately map the raw data coming in from Arduino to p5, finalize the cape fabrication, and solder all the hardware to fit inside the glove. Eve and I also discussed making the narrative more clear in the game.

We received feedback that the user was confused if they were still flying around the planet and wanted to see that feedback shown in the final flying scene. We decided that we would keep the same narrative but move the mission scene to before “Flight School”. That way the user would be clear on why they were learning to fly. We also discussed having the user flying through different levels of space; the higher you would fly, the weirder the images would be that you fly through.

As you can see from the video below, the speed in the game isn’t as accurate to the movement of the accelerometer. The good parts are that the BLE is functioning great! The data is coming in through the terminal. I spent Saturday working on the math in p5 to better map the data coming in. What I was noticing is that in the Serial monitor, data for the button and z-axis of the accelerometer was coming in perfectly. However, when I ran it through the terminal, the data seemed to dump out, which meant that the Feather BLE must be collecting data as it’s running and then once the terminal opens, the data would just pour out.

I reached out to Jingwen, the second year, who has a lot of experience and interest in wearables. She helped me understand how to run the BLE through the terminal using Node.js and mostly helped me understand the code Tom had helped us with in office hours. She recommended talking to Abishek, who she worked with in a wearable project last year, and feels very comfortable with Node. I then reached out to him to explain the issue we were having with the data streaming in too quickly. He was very generous with his time and helped tweak the node code a bit. We added this if-statement–since the data was streaming in the serial monitor fine with the button and z-axis, we wanted to make a line that said that only if the data is 5 characters, then send the data through the terminal. This ended up helping a lot and also slowed down the data coming into p5.

Below are two videos that showing the Feather BLE working fairly well with the p5 sketch.

On Monday, I finally received the Adafruit order I was waiting for: 10mm white diffused LEDs, conductive velcro, and a strand of EL wire. I spent the rest of the day constructing the cape.

The first thing I did was draw out the circuit with the LEDs. I knew I wanted them in parallel and to have them all connected to one battery.

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So, then I got to work. I cut small pieces of stranded wire and stripped each end. Then I rolled the legs of the LEDs and soldered the stranded wire to the positive and negative sides. Once I had 2 strands of 4 lights, I wanted to see if I can add one more to each, but was nervous about using a 3V battery. I spoke to Dhruv, who was working in the soft lab and he said that using a higher voltage battery (like a 9V) would work, but should be tested for resistance. We connected everything to a potentiometer and moved it until it reached the brightness that I liked. Then we measured that with a multimeter, and it came out to 220 ohms. Then I soldered a resistor on the strand coming from the positive wire of the battery that would go up to the conductive velcro.

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I was still connecting the two LED strands with alligator clips. I was ready to solder a positive and ground wire to each LED strand to connect the entire circuit.

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The next thing I had to do was make space for each LED. Since I had already sewed the gold and blue materials together, I lined the LED strands on the edge and marked where each LED would be. Then I used the seam ripper from the soft lab and pulled out the thread where the LED would go. After it was time to test that the LEDs would fit. I was so surprised that this actually worked! It was time to check that the circuit still worked. I flipped the cape from inside out and pinned it to the mannequin. I used the alligator clips I borrowed from Zoe to connect the stranded wire to the conductive velcro. And yay, the circuit still worked! At this point, it was about midnight on Monday and I was deliriously tired, so I decided to head home.

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On Tuesday when I returned, I thought I would take a break from the cape and work on the glove. I have been keeping the accelerometer and Feather microcontroller connected to the breadboard. My first, but painful next step was to downsize everything, as it would need to fit inside the glove. I had purchased quarter-sized proto-boards from Adafruit. I took the accelerometer and Feather off the breadboard just to test the size on the protoboard before soldering. I went to talk with Justine Peake, who I also had made glove in his pcomp final last year. He helped me to figure out the most effective placement for the parts. Since we were using a button to test what would eventually be a soft switch inside the glove, I thought that I should test the button with wires first. I also knew that I would need to solder a wire or headers to the Feather. I went back to test the button with the same set up on the breadboard. When I went to run the data in the serial monitor, something very strange happened and the numbers coming in were completely different than the had been for the past 3 weeks. I was really worried about this, as we had mapped all of the raw data to p5 in order to create the speed simulation. I knew that we shouldn’t expect the same results always to come in on an accelerometer, but I thought it was strange that the resting number had been around 610 and then suddenly it was 47. I thought maybe I just need to restart Arduino, my computer, etc, so I did, but the same results came in. I ran it in the terminal and the BLE turned on (blinking blue light) and would say that it was connected, but data would not stream in. I knew that I was beginning to panic, so I decided that I would just test the button. I ended up sewing stranded wire into the conductive fabric inside of the soft switch in the glove using conductive thread. If anything for the final presentation, I could just put the entire breadboard inside of the glove.

Going back to the cape: After the strands were connected, I used conductive ribbon and sewed the stranded wire using conductive thread into the ribbon. Then I sewed the conductive velcro to the conductive ribbon.


After I wanted to make a small enclosure for the 9V battery. So I made a little sleeping bag using scrap fabric from the soft lab. Then I sewed the entire bed into the top of the cape. This was a last minute decision, and although it worked, I wish I would have included it in the initial design. I think then it would have been more secured inside the lining of the cape.




For my final fabrication project I finished the superhero cape. For the enclosure assignment, I made a small prototype of a cape with an enclosure.  That helped me understand a lot about the fabric I am using, which is stretchy and shiny. I know that the best way to sew is on the inside of the fabric and how fast I should go on the sewing machine.

Not only would the fabrication of this project be difficult, but creating a strong circuit as well. Thankfully by taking fabrications, I am much more confident in creating things.

The first task was to create the circuit with LEDs. I ordered 10mm white LEDs from Adafruit, and conductive velcro (yes, conductive velcro). To ensure that I would set up my circuit correctly, I went to Kate to ask her for her help. She drew out what my circuit should look like which was super helpful when I needed a reference.

I then went to soldering all of the LEDs together. After getting one string with a 3V coin battery. I decided to rev up the power and use a 9V battery, in order to add more LEDs. I added a 220 ohm resistor that I solder to the wire coming from the positive side of the battery up to one of the pieces of velcro.

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After soldering I test with alligator clips and the lights turned on! I was so excited, as I often don’t feel very strong about my pcomp skills.

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Then I needed to connect the circuit together using longer pieces of stranded wire. This is protected by the two layers of fabric.

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For the straps, I sewed the conductive velcro to the conductive ribbon.


I then made a pouch for the battery to go in, so it wouldn’t fall inside of the cape.


This is the prototype before I connected the 10mm LEDs together using stranded wire. As evident in the photo, the LEDs are much smaller and harder to see which is why I bought the large LEDs to see even on the shiny material.

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Here is the cape on and off with the large LEDs. This is before the battery enclosure was made and I am completed this circuit by using alligator clips.

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Final project update: We are flying!

As usual, there were many ups and downs this week and it was pretty challenging catching up after Thanksgiving break. But I am here to report that we have a working microcontroller sending accelerometer data to p5. SAY WHA?!

Our precious Adafruit Feather BLE arrived over the weekend. Silly me thought it would be as simple as pairing the bluetooth to a computer, similar to what we did with the Arduino Mini + BlueFruit. I learned that I needed to run it through the terminal by using node.js. SAY WHA?!

After office hours with Tom Igoe and talking to Jingwen about BLE and node.js we were finally able to get everything up and running. HUGE WIN!


Next I decided to focus on the actual fabrication of a cape.

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Reflection on microcontrollers:

Why we chose the Feather BLE:

We first had thought of using the Arduino Mini + BlueFruit. Although this worked, we were worried about the unreliability. After it paired, it would almost immediately loses the  Bluetooth connection.

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I went on a bit of an exploration of microcontrollers–I tried out the SensorTag, RFDuino and Monteino.

SensorTag: This was brought up (again) by my boyfriend, Max who is also the Director of Video at the New York Times and a Software Engineer at his core. He brought up a great point that the SensorTag is a great route, as it’s a microcontroller, wireless, and has button options.

Superhero cape progress

This was a  super successful week for the superhero cape team! Eve and I managed to put in a lot of hours, tested many things, and have a much clearer vision for our final project. The main issue we faced this week was finding the right microcontroller for our project.

Last Thursday, which feels like a year ago, we met with Benedetta who helped us troubleshoot our issues with using the BlueFruit with the Arduino Mini. Two important things we learned was that there was an issue with the BlueFruit and accelerometer we were using. We spoke a lot about how we could calculate speed with the accelerometer. The advice she gave us was to go back to testing on the Uno until we are certain about the data we are getting. This was hard personally to go a few steps backwards, but retrospectively it was all so worth it!

As recommended by Benedetta, I went back to the serial lab input labs when we graphed data from Arduino. First I mapped all three axis points in different colors, and then just limited it to the data we will actually be using, which is mainly the z-axis. This ended up being a great way to initially tests other things.

When we started to feel more comfortable with the data, Eve worked on a cape calibration programmed through p5, which turned out AWESOMELY!

Since the data aspect was good, I went to focus on starting to fabricate glove prototypes. After talking to Teresa in the Soft Lab, we spoke about the idea of making fingerless gloves, which will eliminate anticipate issues with sizing. I then whipped up a shiny, purple glove.

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Thankfully, Friday was Soft Club meeting was all about big switches. It was great to talk with other ITPers who are interested in soft fabrication and soft circuitry. Plus, it was awesome to discuss and walk through ideas. I have been progressively getting more and more interested in this topic. Jason Beck is very knowledgeable about soft circuitry with his amazing work in assistive technology and very generous with his time (and basically has anything you could imagine to borrow).

Having the glove prototype helped me to visualize the rest of the project. For the past few weeks I have been designing the cape to have the gloves attached to sleeves that would be sewn in. This would mean that the microcontroller would live in the back of the cape and wires would run down to each arm. This would be kind of complicated, especially for someone with no experience with soft circuitry at this scale. Teresa and I discussed this a lot and I would just need to make sure the wires are secured, but also flexible to accommodate the users’ movements. This made me very nervous as I was uncertain I’d be able to successfully build this.

I put that aside on Saturday and worked on implementing the accelerometer data inside of a sketch made with a webgl canvas in p5.

The complicated part of this was making sure the incoming data was adding to the camera. Initially they were at the same speed, which meant each time the accelerometer would drop, or return to the resting state the camera would then jump back.

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This was a great success for us and allowed us to think more about our next prototyping tests.

Saturday took a turn for me later in the day, however. I began thinking more about the cape and all of the wires and the uncertainty of not knowing which micrcontroller we would be using. I am not sure why it to took me so long to realize that by having the gloves attached to the sleeves of the cape would hinder tall people to use the cape. Then I decided to consider having a microcontroller in the actual glove. This would eliminate my concerns with the wires and allow the cape to have more movements.

On Sunday I spent most of the day exploring microcontrollers: sensorTag, RFduino, and Moteino. We reached a place where our uncertainty of microcontrollers led us to be swayed in every direction that came our way. Teresa emailed me Sunday night to tell me about a microcontroller that might be “the one”– The Adafruit Feather 32u4 BlueFruit LE.  Finally, we decided to take office hours with Tom for Monday to discuss this further.

After meeting with Tom he helped us understand more the data we were receiving. He looked more into the Adafruit Feather and confirmed it would be a good choice to try out. So, we bit the bullet and ordered one with a lipo battery. In the meantime he advised us to test the accelerometer on a Leonardo, as its processor is the same to the Feather, meaning once we get the Feather it would a simple transition.

After that I spent some time trying to work with Adruino Mini + BlueFruit. This worked with the accelerometer. So I decided to solder more wires on the board to accommodate a switch and make it more compact to test with. That led to an hour of soldering that should have taken less time and ultimately did not work. For sanity’s sake, I put that aside and went back to the Uno. My goal was to not only get the accelerometer working, but also a switch in order to emulate our final project.

This was very challenging for me. The data coming in for the switch and accelerometer was fine in the serial monitor and the console in p5, however, the push button wasn’t changing the background (as I coded it to), but rather it sped up the camera. That’s when I realized the data was interfering. Finally I was able to get it to work.

The next challenge was doing that same thing on a Leonardo. Simple, right? 7 hours later…

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Now I feel ready for the next steps. Prototyping this inside of a glove.

As for the cape, I worked on simulating the cape’s fun effects when the user puts it on.


Final project updates

So, we have a cape prototype finally. Making the cape was helpful in understanding the hardware, material and placement of the microcontroller, accelerometers, sleeves/gloves, and wires.

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There were a few successes this week:

  • I was able to get the Flora Accelerometer with the Arduino Uno to work.IMG_3058

After this, we mapped the raw data coming in from Arduino to p5. This allowed us to see how the serial data would translate to the speed in p5.

The next step was going from the Uno to a smaller microcontroller. The next microcontroller I tried was the Arduino Mini paired with the BlueFruit.


BlueFruit working!

Final playtesting

We are happy with our progress so far with our Superhero Cape project. On the coding side, we have built the skeleton of what we will use. Visually our next steps are to finalize the images and animations that will be seen in the final version. One issue we have had is the length of loading time–when the sketch is run through the p5 editor, it seems to take a super long time to load, which is unsurprising with the amount of PNG files in the asset folder. When the sketch is run in the browser, however, the loading time is only a few seconds.

The game begins with a looping animation, which is preloaded and was made through After Effects. When the game is loaded, music begins and the camera turns on, of which is only important in the final scene.

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The cape will eventually work as a sensor. Here is the current prototype of the cape. As you can see, it’s prototyped for baby superhero.


Once the cape is on, p5 will begin the game by telling the user of their mission. Here the user will use their fist to trigger the button, which will be made with conductive fabric on the right glove of the cape. Thanks to Eve’s incredible motion graphics experience and amazing animation skills, every scene will be animated to reflect a playful child-like imagination.

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The next scene the user will be using their flying skills. These skills will be proved by how much the user moves. Two accelerometers will be located in both the right and left sleeve of the user’s cape. Each flying skill test will be measured by the raw data of the accelerometer, which we mapped to reflect the speed of the user’s flying in the game.

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*Although we have sent the raw serial data to p5 from Arduino, I am currently working on using a smaller microcontroller, Arduino Mini with BlueFruit.


The user will have 30 seconds to make an orbit around the Earth. If they don’t then the game is over, but if they do, they will get a picture taken in the local newspaper.

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Final update + motor

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Since last Thursday, there have been a lot of changes made to the superhero cape! I am very happy in the direction of it at this point, even though there are still many questions we have yet to answer. Last Friday after a great 1-1 session with Benedetta and a sewing lesson with Teresa, I came to the realization that I want this cape to be all about the physical interaction without much focus on the screen. I began playing around with an accelerometer to understand how it reads data and furthermore how it will be used. That led to user-testing the cape with people on the floor. I tried finding people who weren’t aware of the project in order to see how people really fly. What I learned is that everyone flies differently, which is great information and makes me wonder how to explore that. What it also showed was that I must design the cape in a way that it is intuitive to the user.

Below is an example of how someone might fly without touching the cape at all.


Also, some people immediately grab the sides of the cape and begin to move from right to left. This got me thinking, how can I design the cape in a way to make everyone hold onto the right and left sides.

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I sketched up a new design idea for the cape, which includes sleeves. Therefore a user would put the cape on and then slide their arms into the sleeves.

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After sketching this up, I went to the sewing machine with my new skills and sewed on fabric to prototype this idea. I then tested this design. What I learned is that people still wanted to fly in their own way. The cape actually ripped during this testing, which also taught that material is important!


I also got feedback that in addition to sleeves, superhero gloves would add to the experience. I sketched up what these gloves would look like and how they would work.


Below is the 3rd story idea, which has changed since.


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To get some more inspiration, I visited the Superhero Store in Park Slope.

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Here is the most recent sketch of the cape.

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updated draft


Below is a sketch of the most recent iteration of my superhero cape:

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Since there will be a lot of moving parts and new things I have yet to attempt (p5, bluetooth, soft fabrication) I have decided to use conductive fabric in order to create switches. In addition to the cape, there will also be a mask and gloves.

During play-testing I want to observe how people interact with the cape. Using the slides for the potential story (that will be written on p5), I will get a better idea of how people integrate the cape, mask, and gloves with the story,

Slides for p5 draft

Superheroes- Draft 2

Bill of materials

Conductive fabric:

Price: $20.54

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Cape (for prototyping):

Price: $9

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Mask & gloves (for prototyping):

Price: $9


Price: (short) $6 and (long) $11

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Conductive thread:

Price: $8

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LilyPad Arduino



Week 11/2:

  • Draw a schematic of the cape
  • Research LilyPad vs. Arduino Mini (bluetooth)
  • Play test cape and record feedback
  • Sew (attach) conductive fabric on cape, mask, and gloves

Week 11/9

  •  User-test cape prototype

Week 11/16

  • Connect Arduino to p5

Week 11/23

  • User-test cape with p5 story

Final project, say what?!

I have been stirring around a few crazy ideas that I am unsure are possible, but I’m going to be positive and say any of them are.

Ideas I want to explore: I would like to focus on self-perception, self-empowerment, and possibly superheroes.

Pep talk (self-perception/self-empowerment)

The idea for Pep Talk is influenced every day life at ITP. It’s a constant battle of highs and lows. I’ve personally never worked around and with such incredibly creative, self-motivated, helpful, and interesting people. It’s amazing to see what people create, or even consider creating. Even with that said, we have no real insight in how someone is feeling about their experience. Sure, they may have created an incredibly visually stimulating ICM sketch, but they could have imagined creating something with a few more bells and whistles. They could easily being feel very proud of their work, or they could be feeling very disappointed. We all entered ITP at different levels with different outcome expectations, but we are all here and blended in the same or similar courses.

Through Pep Talk, I would like to explore giving people pep talks when they’re feeling down. How would this be done? I was thinking this could be done through face recognition. The screen would examine a person’s facial expression, and then based on that trigger a box to print out a personal pep talk that was recorded by an actual ITP alum, resident, professor, or student. This would allow someone who is more timid to feel more connected and understand they aren’t feeling the same way.

Super cape (self-empowerment/superhero)

Super cape would be an exploration in wearable technology with the purpose of empowering children to feel like superheroes, but also to make adults feel okay to act like children.

Combining with ICM: I am working on a story concept that would be a game-like experience, in which the child discovers their superpower. The cape could help a user navigate, interact, and ultimately create the story based on their movements with the cape. The cape could have FSRs sewn in the sides, so when they are grabbed it triggers something in the story.

Other ideas: What if the cape solved math equations by movement? And as the user solved more equations, they would increase their ability to fly.

Here are sketches of the cape:


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I am talking to Kate, the wearables expert tomorrow to learn more about wearables and what sensors would make sense for this idea.