May 082014

In my first proposal, I was so sure that my project was going to start some type of movement. I was overly ambitious and I could truly say that this project has humbled me with the understanding that Rome was not built in a day.

With my project, I hope to bring more awareness to emotional abuse. One of the challenges of identifying emotional abuse is that there is no physical evidence. When I first started planning my project, my focus was on how to empower the victim of emotional abuse. I thought that having something that can identify emotional abuse would be helpful to the victim.

My first thought was to create a cuff that would light LEDs in response to certain words that an emotional abuser would normally use to abuse the victim. That would have included coding that was beyond my understanding, so I had to simplify. This did began a path on deciding on what would be my sensor. I had worked before with LEDs in a previous project so I felt comfortable with using them as my actuators. Now, I must inform you that I had never use coding or didn’t even have clue what an audruino lily pad was before I took this class. So of course my anxiety level was at the max. I did however felt a little confident in making the product because I have sewing experience.  But it only took me so far.

I know I wanted to play with audio because emotional abuse is verbal so I had to figure out how I was going to get information from a sensor to the LEDs. That’s when the USB lily pad came into effect. We had already played with it in class so I felt a little at ease, and it was on less thing to order. So the supply list was due, and for some reason I thought the LEDs that came with our kit was suffice. By this time I still did not decide on what would be my sensor. I found an audruino recorder online but I still did not know what route I wanted to take this project. After a discussion with professor Knight, I committed to a theme for my project. Within this discussion, I also was able to identify my sensor. Fortunately, a student from a previous class allowed me to see what she had used for a similar project that involved audio. We used a recorder that also measure sound levels and with this I was then able to output through the Lily pad to the LEDs. Perfect right?

I decided to use my project for media art. I was going to construct a mask that would light up to a video of an abuser verbally abusing a victim. I wanted to show a visual effect in spite of the lack of evidence to promote awareness. Now a mask would involve contours of the face so the conductive thread seem ideal for one of my tools in putting all of this together. While  my recorder was being shipped to me, I was brainstorming on how to design the pattern of  the LEDs that will be sewn on the mask. I only knew about serial patterns due to a previous project. I’ll tell you later about this challenge.  The recorder came in the mail and I was so excited to start playing with it.  Now how will this be possible without sewing everything on the final product, the handy dandy gator clips. They saved my life. I was able to connect everything and practice coding without making a permanent mistake.

Okay next challenge, the recorder was too small to keep the gators on so it was causing a short. This resulted in a crash course in soldering. I learned to solder jumpers to my recorder and then I was able to connect to the lily pad and LEDs by using connecting wires which come into play later in another challenge. Okay so I’m back in business.

Coding. What can I say about this subject? Please read everything that professor Knight suggests. I had to crammed pages and pages of literature while I was coding. I mean that’s how I learn ( hands on) but it would had been helpful to have read everything while we had our workshops. I can’t stressed that enough especially if you are new to any of this. I learned my lesson. Fortunately, after reading everything, I was able to figure out that the code that came with the recorder was something I can build on. One thing I encountered was that I would  have my GND, VVC, and SPL not connected to the right output, so if you see that something is not working(flashing) correctly double check the wiring. Once this was pointed out I was able to connect. Another problem I encountered was that my board was not selected correctly in audruino so if there is something funny showing up in your serial monitor double check the bottom of the audruino sketch pad. This was also pointed out to me by the same student assistant. God Bless him.

With the help of his guidance, I was able to get the coding in a day, but then something else happened. Remember I pointed out that I only knew about serial patterns, well I learned about parallel first hand. My LEDs’ charge was not strong enough to carry through in serial so I had to go parallel. So how was this going to be a possible pattern and on a mask?  I made a decision to only make my neck band that was going to housed all the equipment my only tech functional piece.  Now it’s time to construct.

I learned to strip my wires because I used jumper wires to connect my recorder to my lily pad. This is where the wires come in. There was no way I would be able to connect all my LEDs to one GND. I resorted to radio shack again and invested in a stripper and a LED strip. The best investment was the stripper. My whole aesthetic change to accommodate the design. I decided to “wear the Guts out”. I incorporated the equipment to the design. My wiring draped like chiffon!  I used tacking to keep the wires in place.  The end results was awesome. I was able to connect at least three LEDs to my GND by using the wires I stripped. Since I decided to use the equipment as part of the design I was able to keep everything in range and the neck band wearable. I kept my design somewhat the same and I now like the new aesthetic. My coding works and its wearable and I can return the $30 LED strip to Radio Shack.

This was a challenging journey. This experience was awakening and I have  a new profound respect for e-textiles. I learned a lot through trial and error and my product is functional. I hope that it does do what I intended it to do, overall the journey was worth it. Hopefully this will help with giving a visual effect to emotional abuse.

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