ISTE Standards & NGSS Science & Engineering Practies

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Light-up Monsters: Altered Books

In the spirit of Halloween, I've created a couple of altered books with circuits built into the covers.  Glow-in-the-dark polymer clay makes up the eyes, tongues, and teeth.  To create the light-up effect, I drilled holes through the eyes, inserted LED bulbs into them from underneath, and then poked the legs through the front covers.  I used hot glue to secure the eyes to the tops of the books and to fill in the drill holes.  

My first monster model uses a 5V Trinket with a Micro-Lipo Charger soldered to it.  The two LEDs are then soldered in parallel to analog pin one.  I used Arduino sample code to achieve a creepy fading effect.  After completing this circuit, I decided that the use of the charger was overkill, adding more bulk than I wanted.

The second model substitutes a Trinket with 3V logic and a switched JST breakout board.  This method is less expensive and more compact.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

January 2019 Workshop at BMAC

I'll be teaching a paper circuitry / e-textile workshop at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center on 29 January 2019.  If you are in the area, I hope you'll consider coming!

Learn more at

Friday, March 31, 2017

Electronic Notebooks and the Internet of Things: Capstone

I recently shared my electronic, internet-connected, physical story book at Marlboro College.  The video below tells the story of my process.  

Special thanks go to Lucie deLaBruere, David Cole, Natalie Freed, Jie Qi, Silvia Libow Martinez, and Gary Stager for their inspiration and/ or encouragement.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

America First: Illuminated Pop-Up

Forgive me in advance if you are taken aback by my subject matter in this post, but sometimes art is the best way to wrangle with angst and uncertainty.  In this case, making a presidential pop-up did the trick.

I created this beauty using the principles of Robert Sabuda's Frankenstein.  I almost went so far as to make his comb-over pop-up as well, but diplomacy and my better angels won out.

And let's face it.  The outcome could have been so much more disconcerting if I'd positioned the lights where his eyes are.

When a QR code in my book is scanned, this illuminated pop-up glows steadily while a LilyPad buzzer plays the tune "This Land is Your Land" (see video).  While my subject matter may not be to everyone's liking, I take solace in the juxtaposition between a welcoming Woody Guthrie anthem (played on a tinny buzzer) and the image of a divisive wall.

My biggest take-away in constructing this pop-up was that paper circuitry may be used as more than just a tool of personal expression, but an instrument of political commentary.  I found the experience cathartic.

From a technical perspective, conductive fabric works very well for pop-ups with folds that need to bend a lot.

I used conductive fabric tape in places where the copper needed to bend.

In the future, if I'm going to continue making illuminated pop-ups, I'll need to better design my books to accommodate the added bulk.

This is the back view of the pop-up, prior to being glued down

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

We the People: Illuminated Pop-Up

In my most recent experiment with paper circuit pop-ups, I scanned artwork from another page in my book and used it as a backdrop for a related image, a raised fist holding a pencil.  The new piece packs far more punch than the original.


Chibitronics Circuit Stickers

I did a better job of concealing the copper leads this time.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Statue of Liberty: Illuminated Pop-Up

Statue of Liberty 

I've been experimenting with creating light-up pop-ups, in a book controlled via a Photon microcontroller. I initially tried to light up both sides of the statue (and both sides of the book in her arms), but I ended up abandoning the idea after several failed attempts (and lots of short circuits).  It had seemed easy in theory, but it was far more fiddly than I expected.  

The copper tape, connected to the Photon, runs from the center of the book up the pop-up's arm.
Only one side of the statue lights up.
I used conductive fabric tape in the gutter.
In the end, I decided to illuminate one side the torch and a border around the pop-up.  The torch flickers like a candle, while the border glows steadily.
I overlaid a fresh piece of paper with a cut-out for the pop-up.

I haven't decided whether I want to write on this or just leave it the way it is.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Wifi-Connected Book Model 2: Featuring Particle Photon

Internet Connected Book Model 2

I recently completed my second internet connected book, embedded with a Photon microcontroller.

The conductive fabric on this iteration has a more uniform look, because I made an effort to cut all of the strips the same width.  

Like the first model, I embedded a Particle Photon, LilyPad Simple Power, and an 850 mAh lithium polymer battery.  Prior to binding the book, I tested each of the copper leads with a multimeter.

I used a paper circuit, clipped to the conductive fabric with an alligator clip, to test each connection.
One significant change that I made was using stranded wire instead of copper craft wire.  I found that it was less prone to breakage, as well as being easier to twist and solder.

While I started out using the same code that I composed for my first book, I've tweaked it in a variety of ways, to achieve different effects and play different music.

Nine pages of this book are illustrated/ animated with the help of paper circuits, compared with only six in my previous model.