MassCUE Grant Funding in Action
Wearable Technology-Infused Fashion
by Mrs. Jennifer Ashley, Mrs. Kyla Schmigle, and Dr. James Burke
In the spring of 2022, Somerset Berkley Regional High School students in the Advanced Textiles and Fashion Design program partnered with students in the Computer Science program to take fashion design, self-expression, and wearable technology to the next level. Working in collaboration, students explored, created, and showcased wearable technology-infused fashion centered on the theme of identity. They presented their high-tech fashion designs in a well-attended public evening showcase for the “Tech Styles” project.
It was important to us that students take charge of these projects and communicate directly with each other to understand what would be necessary to build the designs. Mrs. Kyla Schmigle’s Advanced Textiles and Fashion Design students and Dr. James Burke’s Video Game Creation students regularly met as the schedule allowed, creating a class between classes. At first, we scheduled meetings for students. By the end of thisproject, students understood for themselves when they should meet and why. When we approached the point at which intense student collaboration was necessary, Mrs. Jennifer Ashley coordinated an in-school field trip that enabled an energizing full day of cross-classroom productivity. These new practices helped to create a truly collaborative environment for our students.
As this project progressed, the three of us met regularly to plan, mark the progress of our students, and coordinate resources and instruction so that we would meet our public event goal. The possibilities of what we could do were daunting, so we guided the students to choose among specific garment styles and use a single technology platform. We had chosen BBC Micro:bits as a microcontroller platform driving NeoPixel LED lights. We knew these could work, but how was new to us. Here, diving in and experimenting created productive learning for us and our students. Together we discovered the Micro:bit platform’s limitations and how to scale up the number of LEDs we could use.
Fashion students took on the logistics of incorporating and attaching the technology components to a functional garment. Even with careful planning, these students discovered that you often must try to do something to explore the space of the problem thoroughly. At times they had to try repeatedly, yet they were persistent.
The show was an unqualified success. Mrs. Tara Peckham coordinated Video Production students to create a fashion walk presentation video shown at the public event, as students wore and displayed their designs. The technology students were on hand to answer questions about problems they solved.
In their reflections, students noticed that this was a different, influential, and valuable learning experience. One student wrote:
Not being from a coding background, I learned several things about how code works and about the micro bits in general. I worked mostly with [J.] with the lights and the fashion student I worked with the most is [A.], I helped her with a few things with sewing and I was also her project supervisor. It was a big collaborative effort. Most classes we work in small groups for a limited time but we were all working together for quite a long time which was new to me.- J.L.
This student’s sentiment was not an unusual one within our project.
One of the most exciting reactions we got to our public event was the suggestion that a TechStyles model could be used to inspire younger students to become more involved and expand enrollment in both art and STEM classes. We are already planning next year’s incarnation of what will be a yearly event while we’re also considering ways to allow younger students to participate in their version of TechStyles.
As a result of what our students discovered, Mrs. Schmigle will be working on a menu of garments for students to choose from to make it possible for next year’s TechStyles students to make a garment in a short time. Dr. Burke is planning several technology models based on what students did this year, but also what we learned was possible. We hope to spark our students’ imaginations even earlier in the design process and inspire them to build on the past successes of TechStyles students.
We plan to share all these ideas and learnings (menus for garments, accessories, technology options, and how we solved various problems). Mrs. Schmigle will provide resources for teachers to access downloadable garment patterns and options for modifying existing garments and accessories. Dr. Burke will share his online technology in the form of Instructables soon.
The TechStyles project has been an exciting and productive challenge for learning in our professional practice, and we have a lot to talk about. Find us at MassCUE 2022 to hear more of the story and get the details about how you would be able to implement your version of this compelling student experience.
Mrs. Jennifer Ashley is the Coordinator of Art, Technology, & Design and Technology Integration Specialist at Somerset Berkley Regional High School. She enjoys helping students and teachers use technology to solve real-world problems. Ms. Ashley’s 17-year teaching career includes experience as an elementary classroom teacher, elementary technology specialist, middle school classroom teacher, and high school technology teacher. Ms. Ashley has a Master of Education in curriculum and instructional technology.
Dr. James Burke is a Computer Science teacher in the Art, Technology & Design department at Somerset Berkley Regional High School. Dr. Burke is a software developer and mathematics education post doctoral researcher. He is interested in the role of play and playfulness at all levels of education, from pre-K through teacher professional development. He enjoys helping students discover the amazing things they can do with technology, coding, and design.
Mrs. Kyla Schmigle is a Fashion & Textiles and Graphics teacher in the Art, Technology & Design department at Somerset Berkley Regional High School. Mrs. Schmigle has taught ceramics, art explorations, graphics, glass & metal arts and sculpture during her 15 years at SBRHS. Mrs. Schmigle enjoys incorporating a wide range of materials and processes in her classroom Making connections is a focus for Mrs. Schmigle. She encourages student choice, makes career connections, and focuses on creating a bridge between past and present in design. Mrs. Schmigle has Masters in Art Education with majors in ceramics and digital media.
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