Project 2 – Flashket

Initial ideas:

Sorry this is a mess, it’s literally just an explosion of ideas that we had to start the process. 

Biker signal thingy (Working Title)

How could we make this unique and our own?

  • I like the glove idea, after some research I didn’t see anyone use a glove (is it too much work?)
  • Motion/gesture based
  • Simple buttons with a short radio wave communication (like Arielle was saying)

Should be simple and intuitive. Shouldn’t require too much extra work and thought

Goal: Safety? Ease of use? Cool? Pretty? All of these?



First initial quick sketch


Our idea is the safety of bike riders in signalling when they are breaking and turning. This would help decrease bike and car related accidents as drivers will be able to more clearly see bikers at night and in the day. This also will help bikers get over the frustration of the arm waving to signal left or right, it will also be more visible to oncoming traffic at night time. From my experience, many drivers don’t fully understand which arm gesture means what and this can cut down on confusion for all parties involved as lights and arrows clearly show which direction the biker is intended to take. I think this would be a great solution in a place like Boulder because we share the roads a lot with bikers and many times bikers get fully in the car-turning lane.

We tend to explore wearable and wireless technologies


  • Jacket
  • Arduino Lilypad
  • LED Strips
  • Force sensors
  • Buttons
  • Wire
  • Potentially bluetooth or signal capable switches

Reworking our Idea:

After many hours of brainstorming this particular idea, we realized that a lot of people  have done a biker helmet/jacket safety project before. We found a lot of resources and even found an entire kit to make it by following instructions. The cherry on the top of reworking our idea was when someone else in our class showed us a video of the same exact project he did the prior year. That was what pushed us to think of something more unique. We knew we wanted to keep the main idea of safety and wanted to adapt that idea from the bike signal. We played with ideas of light up shoes and joggers, but ultimately decided on something entirely different and something that was unique.

As more brainstorming pursued, we decided to go with a runners jacket that has lights up the sleeves so you can be seen at night, which was the main purpose of the biker signal lights. After discovering EL wire, we thought it would be cool to have that as the sleeves, but realized quickly that EL wire is more trouble than its worth, dealing with a different power source (meaning we would have to use a converter) which would lead to added bulk on the jacket. Since the jacket is a running jacket, it should be light weight. Any added bulk should be determined thoroughly and the smallest/least number possible items should be used.

After researching even more, we decided to go with LilyPad sewable LEDs. We implemented a way to switch the lights so they can flash, for extra safety. We think we hit our main purpose of something that displayed our creatives minds in a unique and safety-centic way. But that’s not all, we decided to add a way to check your speed as you run. We figured it would be a cool addition since we already have a battery for the lights, to add in a way to check how fast you are running via a RGB LED embedded into the sleeve, near your wrist. Different colors indicate different speeds you achieve.


Goodwill jacket – $7

LilyPad – $25

GPS Receiver – $15 (could opt for a better one that works indoors, but the price goes up)

LilyPad White LED (4 packs, but we only used 16 total) – $16

LilyPad Button Board – $1.50

LilyPad Tri-Color – $8

Battery 850 mAh – $10

Conductive Thread – $42

3 extender wires for the GPS unit, but optional

Fabric and thread


Testing the products and features:

We started by testing out the conductive thread on a piece of fabric to make sure it would supply enough power and would have a strong connection. The alligator clips were used so we didn’t have to thread all the LEDs just for testing as it would have been a hassle getting them out. We ran a simple code that controlled both the Tri-color and white LEDs with the press of a button. Everything works!


We then made sure the GPS unit was in working order, by using a library that you can download for the Arduino, called TinyGPS. This code serially prints all the information received from the GPS unit and helps identify any errors. We didn’t know you had to go outside to get a good lock on the satellites so this code let us run around with the unit until we found a lock. The GPS unit we bought is a cheaper and weaker unit that doesn’t work indoors very well. Thanks to this code we easily found out the troubleshooting and errors. Here is the code:

After standing outside for a solid 10 minutes, the GPS unit was in working order and we could continue!


Object 2Object

Untitled Sketch_schem.png


We tested different sewing patterns using normal thread and embedding the conductive thread underneath. Unfortunately, neither of these options were viable so we opted for handing sewing the conductive thread, as one strand was strong enough to give a constant current.


We modeled the jacket so we could mark the spots where we wanted the LEDs. We used some spare masking tape to easily mark the spots.

Then started to sew away. Since we were using conductive threading, we had to be careful on where we routed the thread making sure not to overlap to other connections, otherwise it would mess up the circuits and could possibly short out.

We used hot glue near the armpits and neck to assure that when the fabric is pressed up against each other no thread would be over lapping. A better implementation would be to use extra fabric and sew over all of the connections, or use a method like above. Many opportunities existed in this realm and like we talk about at the end, this is our biggest opportunity to work on in future iterations.


Lights working:

and the LilyPad to the back like this:


and the battery like this:

Had to use a little jimmy-rigging for this one, hot glueing the battery to the back to keep it in place
The Final Code:

We used a combo of the above test code and a few online resources to make and compile the code below:

Final Touches:

We hot glued the overlapping connections to secure the thread. It looked not the best, but this is meant to be worn at night, so looks didn’t matter too much to us in the end.


Final Photos:




One of our main issues with this project was the conductive threading. It honestly is a pain to work with, making sure you don’t overlap anything and making sure you have a strong connection. One problem we had with this is that we had too many threads and when the jacket was on, some of these threads crossed and caused a short. Another issue we had was with the GPS unit, since it was so cheap we had a hard time making it work when needed.

Beyond this Project:

If we expanded on this project, we would have added cloth to hide the conductive threads, explore alternatives to conductive threading, and add another button to control mileage (i.e. track how far) vs speed. We would most likely find a smaller board or custom design a board for better integration into the jacket. We would have also liked to mess with EL wire, which would have given this a Tron feel to it.

Lots of opportunities to expand on but overall a solid project that exercised our creative minds 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s