Design thinking is quite literally a “bright spot” at The Willows Community School. Director of Technology Amy Dugré recently offered a middle school elective, “Light it Up!” where students worked with circuit boards and LED lights to create some ingenious gadgets—including illuminated clothing!
The class evolved as faculty prepared for this year’s Family Arts Night, a community event that celebrates student work in visual arts, music, and dance. Amy’s students were inspired to design and create space-themed costumes for the Willows Dance Company, using technology to light the costumes. With faculty guidance, the students learned to use pre programmed micro-controllers to control solid and blinking lights.
Then, onto the costumes! The students hand-sewed thin, luminescent tubes onto black leggings and deconstructed and re-constructed “rave gloves,” which have electric lights on each finger. The students soldered wires and determined how to use a micro-controller to make the circuits work.
The process enabled students to see an entertaining, real-world application to programming and design, and it highlighted how middle schoolers can learn when faced with engaging problem-solving challenges. “The project was hard!” Amy says. “The students were required to think in three dimensions and continually adjust and refine their designs—but they loved it. They worked on their own time to see the project through, and when they finished, they begged for the class to be a double elective the next semester!”