Make a Breadboard Sweatshirt (Instant Wearable Electronics!)

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Introduction: Make a Breadboard Sweatshirt (Instant Wearable Electronics!)

Are wearable electronics The Future? I think so! Here's the quickest, most versatile wearable electronics project ever, The Breadboard Sweatshirt.

Mostly, wearables involve conductive thread for wiring. But that stuff jams my sewing machine, and I wanted to be able to change it if I didn't like it when I was done. Also, I hate doing lots of long, tedious hand-sewing.

Solution? Slap a breadboard on it!


(Q: What's a breadboard?

A: Just a piece of plastic with holes, on top of metal strips in a pattern, that makes it really fast and easy to build a circuit.)


This instructable is dedicated to the single mom in Kansas who wrote to me asking how she could make this "outfit" for her daughter's Halloween party.

Step 1: Prepare the Substrate

Get something really comfortable, a shirt, sweatshirt, sweater. Anything you can sew on.

I grabbed one of my dorm's logo "burning man" sweatshirts,
but I painted over the silkscreened logo so it would just be a plain black sweatshirt.

You can sort of still see it in the photo.

For a little extra brio, I added the instructions for how to use a breadboard sweatshirt, as a pun-couplet on the back, using just a paintbrush and some bleach.

Check out Alex's bleach dyeing instructable to see how I did that.

My major (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Course 6) produces an unfunny yet punny shirt every year. Walking around MIT's campus, you notice students wearing, "Six Hertz" shirts. Meaning either "(Course) Six Hurts" ('cause there's a whole lotta work), or an electronic signal frequency specification.

I thought I could do much better in terms of EECS related puns (and why should school "hurt"? I don't wanna wear a shirt that says that), so I wrote "Socket to me" on the back, in response.

Step 2: Attach the Breadboard

Make holes in the four corners to sew it to the shirt.
I used my roommate's sewing kit to whip it on with some matching black threads. That way it'll stay right where you want it.

Breadboards, and most electronics, are even washable! (but not batteries)

Placement: you can obviously put the breadboard anywhere, or even make your entire body into a giant prototyping board. I put it at chest height because it's where a lot of logos go.

The stitching is quick - lash a few stitches on and you're good to go.

A little extra: you'll probably want to throw a battery on, so your new little electronics bench has power. I was feeling lazy so I just hot glued it down, with the intent of adding an elastic strap for the battery later.

Real wearables pros put the battery pack on the inside of the shirt for total style and comfort.

Remember to unplug the batteries for washing!

Step 3: Decorate!

That's it, you're done making the sweatshirt. Wasn't that fast?

Wearable electronics don't have to involve time consuming sewing or conductive thread.
They can be within your reach and a quick trip to the local Radio Shack.

Now the EE part comes in. Curious about circuits but never built one before?
Forest Mim's electronics project books are really good.

If you already know what you want, go hog wild.

Make an LED beating heart. Make a scrolling animation.

Add an arduino, and LED, and a temperature sensor, and make your clothes change color with temperature.

Make your shirt play Conway's Game of Life, or turn it into a nighttime bike light jacket, like Leah Buechley. Actually, read all of Leah's website for inspiration, she's been my hero since I was in highschool.

Add a speaker, a tone generator, and some touch sensors and let your friends beatbox on your clothes.

Be a mintyBoost and charge your iPod off your shirt from AA batteries while on the road.
Be a walking amp with built-in jacket headphones.
Be a TVBGone, and turn off television sets wherever you go.

Look at what prof. Roz Picard has done with wearable computing.

Or, be all of these things! The beauty of the breadboard is that you can change the technology you're wearing!

Read Lady Ada's whole website, too. She's put a lot of good kits and how-tos online.
Don't program yet, but you wanna add your own hot micro? Her howto on arduinos is good too.

For my first project I decided to make a super-quick glowing green star-shaped nametag with some resistors and LEDs laying around.

For inspiration, here's a cool movie of Conway's Game of Life:



Another hot tip: Tape or hot-glue down your wires - they shake a lot and can jiggle loose while you walk around. Also, using white-insulate wires or hiding them lets people focus on the part of the project you want people to see. If you're doing anything with LEDs, try putting a white cloth diffuser over the breadboard so that just the light comes through.

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    57 Comments

    This is all good fun except for the part about taking it to the airport. With everyone on a heightened state of paranoia due to real terrorist acts, it is to be expected that people will freak out when seeing this in public. I can only imagine that the author did this on purpose to try and "test" the system or simply a joke in bad taste.

    As smart as she obviously is by making it into MIT, she needs to grow up a bit and realize that what she did was not smart. She is lucky to have only received a slap on the wrist.

    It doesn't even remotely resemble a bomb. It's difficult to fathom how any cognitively intact individual could think otherwise. Technophobia is a reflection of how far our society has fallen intellectually. Shame on you.

    The problem there is "cognitively intact individual".

    Of course it doesn't resemble a bomb! But reality is that even college educated adults (like Ahmed's English teacher in Texas) are complete morons when it comes to technology. It is not technophobia, it is techno-ignorance and the unfortunate reality is that the masses are dumb. Dumb people think that anything with wires is a bomb and if you bring it to the airport it is going to get you in trouble.

    Techno-ingnorance no doubt, but ignorance breeds fear so technophobia applies as well. If you travel, take a look at the sort of folks who are employed by the ATF. In the larger metropolitan airports they predominately come from poorly educated, lower socioeconomic backgrounds. These are people who lack the intellectual skills and broad life experience needed to make rational and common sense decisions. Airports truly are dangerous places for those who value liberty. I take exception to your assertion that it's immature and "not smart" to challenge the system. Stupidity simply leads to progressively worse stupidity when left unchallenged. I think Star is a real hero, although maybe an accidental hero because I don't think she deliberately went into this to test the system. You can be sure that little Ahmed's school administrators may be rethinking the wisdom of a blanket zero-tolerance, zero-brain policy. Of course when challenging authority the results may not be as positive as they have been for Ahmed. It takes bravery to stand up to stupidity (and a powerful social media community).

    I recommend not wearing this shirt to the airport.

    After reading what happened to you I realized I really don't want to ride on an airplane ever.
    Now I think the sweater is a cool idea. I'd love to be able to just wear this to school (yes I'm in an electronics class where we use breadboards quite a bit) I have a big packet full of ideas. I love the star design you did! Very nice and cool idea!

    Is this THE breadboard sweatshirt? The one we all heard so much about a year or so ago?

    yes it is! I waited almost exactly a year to publish the instructable.

    Hooray, this finally made it up! I think we should all MAKE one and wear them in protest of the TSA. Thanks, Star!