Kitronik launches ‘Igloo’ for wearable tech design

08 December 2015

Kitronik announces ‘Igloo’, designed specifically for e-textiles, helping to inspire school children, students and home users to create their own wearable technology. 

The new sewable PICAXE control board has been designed specifically for use within e-textiles projects and provides a cost effective, fun way to learn about electronics and programming within an e-textiles environment. Priced at just under £5, Igloo is considerably cheaper than other products currently available and is therefore more accessible for schools and home users. 

It is hoped that Igloo will inspire more people to create their own e-textiles project or piece of wearable technology and support teachers in the delivery of innovative e-textiles lessons. 

The board uses a PICAXE14M2 microcontroller, a chip that can be programmed using the free PICAXE Programming Editor software to respond to various inputs like switches and sensors and control outputs such as LEDs or buzzers, making it perfect for use within e-textiles. 

Please click here to view the Igloo launch video. 

As shown in the video, the board is packed full of features and has large and therefore reliable connection points for conductive thread. All Igloos’ features are listed below.  

• Built in PICAXE 14M2 programmable IC
• On-board dimmable white LED
• On-board switch
• 6 sewable I/O pins
• JST connector and sewable '+' and '-' pads
• 3.5mm stereo jack for programming
• Low profile and compact size

The Igloo can be powered either by the JST connector, or the clearly marked '+' and '-' connections via conductive thread, from a power source between 3 and 5.5V.

The board can be programmed using either Blockly, BASIC or flowcharts via the official PICAXE software, to make programming accessible even to complete beginners. The software can be downloaded free from the PICAXE section of the Kitronik website. Users then just need to connect the board to a PC via a PICAXE USB download cable.

Helping to teach e-textiles and coding

Igloo has been created following the results of an EU funded research project undertaken in partnership between Nottingham Trent University’s School of Education and Kitronik earlier in the year. During the project the two organisations collaborated with teachers to identify the resources and products which would be most useful to help them effectively deliver the e-textiles curriculum. 

Their research found that the lack of availability of resources, coupled with current funding issues in schools which made it difficult for teachers to attend external courses, often resulted in them suffering from a lack of confidence when it came to delivering e-textiles. Also due to cost, some schools had not been using programmable boards within e-textiles. If they were used, they were used within group work with students sharing a device. 

In response to these research findings, Kitronik has introduced a range of online e-textiles learning resources for teachers and designed Igloo to be a cost effective device to enable students to have ownership of their design and product. 

Kitronik Co-Founder Kevin Spurr comments that they have designed the Igloo to be accessible for both school users and also home users who are interested in creating their own e-textiles projects. If students are able to have an Igloo each, they would have a much more ‘hands on’ learning experience than using a device within group work.

Wearable technology is a phrase which grabs the attention of students. They hope that enabling them to have their own piece of kit and create their own item of wearable technology within the classroom will inspire more young people to become interested in electronics, e-textiles and coding.

Early feedback from teachers and consultants who were given pre-launch access to Igloo has been very positive. Paul Boyd, Education Consultant said Igloo is an important new addition to the resources currently available and will certainly help people and schools express their creativity with e-textiles. The device is easy to use and to programme and the connections remain stable when used across a wide range of projects. It can be connected easily using crocodile clips so students are instantly able to get to grips with the product and create something which is fantastic for them and will certainly help to harness enthusiasm for the subject.

Igloo is available via the Kitronik website and through its catalogue. A starter guide for Igloo is available here.  

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