Interactive Body System T-Shirts

In collaboration with the seventh grade science teacher with whom I work, we led the students on a deep dive exploration of the human circulatory and digestive systems. They created interactive t-shirts from felt, conductive thread, and metal snaps that connected to their laptops with a Makey Makey (or FunKey Simple in a couple instances). The groups programmed Scratch projects that explained the different organs when the "pointer" physically touched the felt organs on the shirts. The seventh graders brought their hardware and software to their third grade buddies' classrooms to teach them about these human systems as their culminating project.

Building Patterns

Students started by creating paper patterns to use to cut the organs from felt. We provided a few online resources for them to help with their drawings.


Placing and Attaching the Organs

Using online resources as well as an anatomical model, students placed the organs in the correct places on the t-shirts. They used fabric glue to attach them permanently. The intestines needed a hot glue gun in some cases.


Attaching Metal Snaps 

The students used conductive thread to attach metal snaps. First, they choose a "pointer" shape. Using the thread, they sewed one side of a snap to the pointer, leaving extra thread. The organs that they were supposed to identify and provide information about in their Scratch projects had the other side of the snap sewed into them. The extra thread on these snaps was inside the t-shirts leading to conductive fabric pads, typically attached to the hem along the bottom of the shirt.


Creating Interactivity

The shirts were made interactive by attaching them to a Makey Makey or a FunKey Simple. The pointer attached to the Earth (or ground) on the Makey. Students programmed Scratch projects that reacted to the snaps touching, which triggered animation, sounds, and facts about the organs.


Presenting Their Work

The groups met in three different third grade classrooms to share their work with small groups of third graders. The project was very well received by the third graders and the seventh graders did an admirably thorough job explaining the body systems in an engaging and whimsical way.


Integrated projects like this in which the students construct their knowledge of a subject by crafting personalized projects over enough time to permit deep understandings of multiple disciplines provides powerful learning experiences for everyone involved. I look forward to revisiting and improving this project in the future.