I am leading/giving a presentation next week at #Podstock15 called "Wearables-AKA who DOESNT want a light up tiara". I am basing it off an Arduino (https://www.arduino.cc/ ) type microcontroller called Gemma found at Adafruit. I wanted to learn about Arduino and how I could incorporate it into Physics classroom, in particular when we do circuits. After finding Gemma & Flora and NeoPixels at the Adafruit website, and looking through their TONS of projects and tutorials, I have some good ideas. They aren't just LED's , they are PROGRAMMABLE. Thanks to a large community, you don't HAVE to program from scratch, you can use an existing one.
So I had to finally start building stuff this week. I went through the Adafruit Learning System and found some projects that used Gemma & Neopixels and duplicated them. I only tweaked some of the code (number of pixels, colors produced, data pin). I did have to do some soldering (didn't burn myself once - though in the middle of the night or when I am at the gym my mind goes "did I unplug the soldering iron?")
You can also add sensors. One project uses a light sensor (between my fingers) to trigger the NeoPixels--covered means off, uncovered means on.
Speaking of sensors, I wanted to make the NeoPixels change by reacting to sound. A microphone is the sensor. I had to use the Flora microcontroller (at least that is what the project called for - maybe it can be ported to the Gemma - or maybe it needs the more powerful Flora). (There is a similar project to this, "light up drums" ,that makes me want to build a volume meter for the band teacher using a strip of 30 LED's in order for the band to have a visual on how loud they should be playing)
I made a second Flora project that uses an accelerometer to make the NeoPixels change.
These components are TINY and battery operated. Hence "wearable". They are very easy to incorporate into clothes or school projects. Components, some wire, a little duct tape, or hot glue, or conductive thread is all you need.
I was hoping to use codebender to do the programming from chromebook via the cloud because in the Spring they said you could. I found out that I can program an Arduino this way. But I cannot program the Gemma this way. They are working on that compatibility/programming issue. For now you have to download the Arduino IDE and program from your computer.
I need to finalize some ideas for the presentation. After that, I need to look at adding the basics to our circuits unit, and see if students want to go beyond basics. I don't mean it to be a coding unit, but hopefully all will gain something from the exposure to code, and some will want to go beyond basics. There are tons of awesome projects and what teenager doesn't want to bling out their clothes.