Did you ever think we could use thread and sequins for an electronics class? If the thread is stainless steel and the sequins are LEDs, then add a power source and take a few stitches to create a sewable circuit. These circuits are just what they sound like and have opened a whole new world for learning about science, technology, engineering, and math.
This winter, the Spark Museum had two sewable circuit workshops for the Kulshan Middle School Creators & Innovators Club for girls. The girls first learned basic hand-stitching techniques and applied them to sewing circuits with conductive thread and special components. Everyone was successful in creating a Light-up Plushie and some even progressed to a more complicated circuit containing a multi-functional, blinking, reprogramable circuit board. It was great fun with lots of proud and happy faces at the end.
Volunteers committed to supporting girls in STEM were key to the workshops’ success. Spark’s own Amy Mulligan and Kristina Gustovich were joined by the CIC volunteers who are local women working and studying in STEM fields. They worked alongside the girls and everyone found that working with thread to create circuits is tricky. However, mistakes and trouble shooting provide excellent learning opportunities.
“Creating and providing positive STEM experiences for girls is key in keeping them interested and learning,” says Anne Bargetz, Spark’s Director of Education, who developed and led the workshops. “By making and doing, the girls dove deeply into the experience, which instantly generated questions and wonderings about electronics, programming, and spatial relations. And yes, a few asked if it was like sewing on a button.”
An unanticipated benefit of the workshops was the bonding between students and volunteers. Casual conversations provided positive role models for the girls and insight for the adults about what life is like for adolescent girls today. The experience will surely be remembered and drawn on in the future, not just for the science, technology and sewing, but for the great collaboration, assistance and supportive encouragement exhibited by all. Spark truly is pleased to provide such great educational events.