Blog Post

Keeping Students Engaged During Summer Break with Digital Embroidery

Summer break is here! Take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back for making it through the trials, tribulations, and successes of the past year.


One of my favorite ideas for keeping students engaged during the summer is digital fabrication. When students can create, share, and even wear something physical using code, the results are powerful. Several years ago, we were incredibly fortunate to have the iLuminate artists on our campus. Founded by Miral Kotb, iLuminate features dancers wearing costumes that are designed with programmable LEDs. In the words of Kotb, iLuminate is a “company based on the fusion of technology and dance.” The brightly-lit costumes on a darkened stage, combined with the iLuminate choreography, make for a creative and unique performance. Here is an inspiring Made with Code video featuring Kotb and iLuminate. 

Since that visit, our students have been interested in the intersections between coding, e-textiles, and dance. I love sharing iLuminate videos in my classes, and they have inspired projects like a programmable dress with neopixles and Ozobot choreography. We’ve also experimented with sewing circuits by creating light-up plush animals and pins using lilypad arduinos, and we have tackled some of the Exploring Computer Science e-textiles projects. Some good beginner projects for getting started with e-textiles are outlined here and here.

Recently we’ve discovered Turtlestich. Created by Andrea Mayr-Stalder, this free browser-based program allows students to create patterns on the computer using block-based programming, similar to Snap! The patterns can then be produced as physical artifacts using an embroidery machine. If your school does not have an embroidery machine, a local makerspace might be able to help. The STEAM Coding blog provides excellent ideas for starter projects and helpful tips for using Turtlestitch. This video and these cards were especially helpful for getting started.

If you are headed to the CSTA conference this week, Tammy Glass is offering a workshop called Innovative Coding Through Embroidery. The session is scheduled for Tues., July 9 at 3:30 p.m. MT.