The theme for July’s After Dark Activity was Bling, and we decided to turn it into wearable Digital Bling. Amy, Sebastian and I took on different ways to showcase our ideas for the night.
We first participated as learners by making simple jewelry with foam which provided a nice starting point for visitors. We experimented with conductive fabric and sewn circuits to decorate bags like Amy’s bright idea below.
In our own prototyping process, we noticed that soldering could be challenging, mostly when trying wire bending due to the varying gauges.
Our intention was to make the activity accessible to all expertise levels, so we decided to limit the soldering and allow for more tinkering with other materials.
We had a range of examples: from low floor to high ceiling ideas. Our materials provided space for creativity and inspiration like foam and faux leather. We also had coin cell batteries, copper tape and LEDs to add the bling to their designs. Our hope was to provide enough materials to let imagination run wild with little limitations, so we provided soldering stations and sewing/embroidery supplies.
All supplies were set in the middle of three high tables. This way visitors that were sitting all day in the office get to work standing and moved around to gather materials (photo on the left). Plus, us as facilitators had an easy access to support visitors with their projects. An additional table was set with all materials available (right picture).
It got crowded and loud quickly. Even though our 90s bling bling hip hop playlist in the background faded with the noise, I was pleased that people were chatting with their neighbors. We had a full room at all times (and a long line waiting).
Visitors tried their designs from the simplest foam ring lit by LEDs to a sewn circuit using conductive thread! Our visitor Amped Atelier raised the bar with her sewn circuit using the bee’s wings as a switch to light up the clouds with LEDs.
Our setup also had a vanity station with a lower table later and inspirational examples from Tinkerers like Grace Kim and her LED Bag with the intention of inspiring creativity; however, we saw visitors strived for ambitious designs when they saw complex examples. At the end, this vanity was repurposed as an additional work station! For future reference, examples should showcase ideas that can be made within the timeframe of the workshop. Our examples took us a couple R&D sessions to complete, and were not suitable for a quick tinkering session like the After Dark.
Although we had a number of visitors lined up to participate at the entire workshop, most visitors were able to finish their project successfully (possibly after two or three attempts) and left home with a nice piece of bling.
Like this couple, many were intrigued by the versatility of wire bending and soldering, and thankfully we did not have many challenges with the soldering! They learned to solder and created a parallel circuit with their copper tiaras and four LEDs.
Those who did not feel comfortable soldering simply used a hot glue gun, their copper wire and LED to form their circuit like these visitors and their “Blinky.” The simplicity of this approach provides an opportunity to showcase their creativity.
This was my first time facilitating for an After Dark activity, and although it required a lot of my attention and support, I loved seeing others get excited about circuits as much as I do. I specifically appreciated their interest on using unconventional materials for circuits. Shoutout to visitors who used faux leather and LEDs! I must say I underestimated visitors’ interest in learning circuits and soldering. Many were willing to solder even if it was their first time. I proudly say we made these tools more accessible for others to tinker. What better way to expose people to the intimidating world of circuits than making your own bling playful way over drinks.
For more information on how to make your own Digital Bling click here!