I’m interested in working on projects that support people to take advantage of the benefits of technology in a personally meaningful way. I’m currently working to help older adults to build their own electronically enhanced devices using maker technology like Arduino. Older adults are quite capable of learning how to use these technologies if they’re catered to their needs and interests while supporting them to use their skills to create. Through my work thus far, I’ve seen how they may be intimidated by using this technology initially, but when you build up their knowledge, they’re interested in making artifacts just like other groups. I’m especially interested to see if they value opportunities to create health-sensing devices based on Internet of Things (IoT) technology. To accomplish this, I’m working to design an electronic toolkit of off-the-shelf components for them to build on their own. I’m focused on trying to abstract away the need for technical knowledge so they can easily build artifacts themselves.

So far, I’ve completed a needs assessment to better understand the needs and interests of older adults. I’ve focused much of my work on older adult crafters, since they’re a group of older adults who are already building tangible objects. Working to reach older adults through crafting skills may lower barriers in creating. Additionally, I have seen opportunities to leverage the way crafters learn new techniques, the way crafting groups are organized, and how these groups support each other to create.

Below is an example of a quilt I helped create using LilyPad Arduino and conductive thread. The quilt lights up the LEDs based on how long it’s been since the person wearing it has moved.

This is a quilt we’ve made as an example. It uses a LilyPad Arduino with an accelerometer and LEDs to indicate how long the wearer has been sitting.

I am actively iterating on electronic toolkit designs that abstract the technical knowledge while promoting older adults to create meaningful IoT devices. Below are two prototypes I’ve been developing.

The Fabric Base toolkit prototype leverages conductive fabric to make connections between components. The components snap to the bases for easy replacement.
The Magnets and Wires toolkit prototype leverages magnetized jumper wires to make connections between components. The components also snap to the bases for easy replacement.