High-Low Tech
How to engage diverse audiences in creating their own technology by situating computation in new contexts and building tools to democratize engineering.
The High-Low Tech group integrates high and low technological materials, processes, and cultures. Our primary aim is to engage diverse audiences in designing and building their own technologies by situating computation in new cultural and material contexts, and by developing tools that democratize engineering. We believe that the future of technology will be largely determined by end-users who will design, build, and hack their own devices, and our goal is to inspire, shape, support, and study these communities. To this end, we explore the intersection of computation, physical materials, manufacturing processes, traditional crafts, and design.

Research Projects

  • Computational Textiles Curriculum

    Leah Buechley and Kanjun Qiu

    The Computational Textiles Curriculum is a collection of projects that leverage the creativity and beauty inherent in e-textiles to create an introductory computer-science curriculum for middle- and high-school students. The curriculum is taught through a sequence of hands-on project explorations of increasing difficulty, with each new project introducing new concepts in computer science, ranging from basic control flow and abstraction to more complex ideas such as networking, data processing, and algorithms. Additionally, the curriculum introduces unique methods of working with the LilyPad Arduino, creating non-traditional projects such as a game controller, a networked fabric piano, an activity monitor, and a gesture recognition glove. The projects are validated, calibrated, and evaluated through a series of workshops with middle- and high-school youth in the Boston area.

  • LilyPad Arduino

    Leah Buechley
    The LilyPad Arduino is a set of tools that empowers people to build soft, flexible, fabric-based computers. A set of sewable electronic modules enables users to blend textile craft, electrical engineering, and programming in surprising and beautiful ways. A series of workshops that employed the LilyPad have demonstrated that tools such as these, which introduce engineering from new perspectives, are capable of involving unusual and diverse groups in technology development. Ongoing research will explore how the LilyPad and similar devices can engage under-represented groups in engineering, change popular assumptions about the look and feel of technology, and spark hybrid communities that combine rich crafting traditions with high-tech materials and processes.
  • LilyTiny

    Leah Buechley and Emily Marie Lovell

    The LilyTiny is a small sewable breakout board for ATtiny85 microcontrollers–devices which may be integrated into circuits to enable pre-determined interactions such as lights that flash or areas that can sense touch. The circuit board can be pre-loaded with a program, enabling students to incorporate dynamic behaviors into e-textile projects without having to know how to program microcontrollers.

  • StoryClip

    Leah Buechley and Sam Jacoby

    Exploring conductive inks as an expressive medium for narrative storytelling, StoryClip synthesizes electrical functionality, aesthetics, and creativity, to turn a drawing into a multimedia interface that promotes rich engagement with children.