Creative Wearable Tech | NYU Tandon School of Engineering

Creative Wearable Tech

Experience how wearable tech extends beyond fashion to custom game controllers, computer interfaces, healthcare and more.

student using wearable technology

COVID-19 Message

Thank you for your interest in the NYU Tandon School of Engineering Center for K12 STEM Education's summer programs.  We hope you and your loved ones are doing OK. This is an unprecedented and difficult time, and as we navigate COVID-19 directives and closings, we will continue to operate the Center with the safety and well-being of all of our constituents foremost in our actions.  The Tandon School of Engineering and New York University community is monitoring the situation daily, making adjustments, and considering what may or not be possible with respect to our summer STEM education programs, including online options where feasible.

As you consider applying, we want you to know about our program deposit refund policy.  Should you be admitted and matriculate, we want to make clear the Center for K12 STEM Education will adhere to the following guidelines with respect to refunding deposits:

  • If your program is cancelled, travel restrictions continue, flights are not available, or other ongoing COVID-19 related issues prevent you from attending, you will receive a full refund of your program deposit.  This is true also for international students who, in addition to these reasons, are unable to obtain an F-1 visa.
  • We are assessing whether programs can be converted to an online offering.  In the event your offering does move online, you have applied with the expectation of an on-campus program, and you do not wish to participate online, you will receive a full refund of your program deposit.  You will also receive a refund if we need to cancel or consolidate specific sessions, and you do not wish to exercise the option to switch. 
  • With respect to NYU Housing's policies in this regard, please visit this Resident Life webpage.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please reach out via email at or by phone at 646-997-3524.


Apply now for summer 2020!

Have you ever used a mouse, trackpad, or keyboard to interact with a computer? How about a game controller, to interact with a console? Do you have electronic objects in your home that use sensors, or that perform functions automatically? Have you ever worn a Fitbit or an student testing wearable techApple Watch? Chances are these electronic objects have taken a common form — a printed circuit board enclosed within a hard plastic shell, but it’s possible to make wearables and controllers that are much more creative. 

This course invites students to consider domestic and wearable electronics from a design perspective, using physical computing. Physical computing is a process of using inputs, like sensors, and outputs, like motors and LED lights, to design interactive systems that respond to both the physical and digital world. Students will learn how wearable technology can extend well beyond fashion — to include custom game controllers, alternative computer interfaces, health tech, performance, and art. 


Syllabus & Curriculum

This class will cover the basics of physical computing using Arduino, a microcontroller that facilitates the design of interactive systems that can respond to the physical world. The first half of the course will focus on using traditional prototyping materials, such as breadboards and hook-up wire, to create custom game controllers. Students will also learn the basics of coding in Arduino, in order to program their responsive systems. The second half of the course will introduce more experimental conductive materials used in wearable technology, such as conductive fabric, flexible circuit boards, and sewable sensors. In addition to learning how to design and build functional circuits, students will exercise their creativity, as they consider not just how to make wearable tech, but why, and for whom, in future narrative scenarios.


Week 01: Interfaces and Controllers

1. MONDAY: Introduction to Physical Computing


  • Introduction & Overview. What is P-Comp and what can you do with it?

  • P-comp basics: Intro to electricity, breadboards, and coding in Arduino. 

    • “Hello World:” turning on LED’s

    • Wiring in series and parallel

  • Digital Inputs: buttons + switches

    • Reading a button press, introduction to Serial

    • Using a button press to control an output

    • Experimenting with conductive materials, and using a multimeter


  • Small teams custom switch: Use unique materials to create a creative switch or button.

  • Intro to servo motors

  • Group project incorporating switches into a larger interactive system, such as a Rube Goldberg Machine or Haunted House

2. TUESDAY: Custom Controllers 


  • Intro to Processing, creating a basic “pong game”

  • Adding custom assets

  • Emulating Mouse + Keyboards w/ Arduino Leonardo 


  • Lecture: creative game controller inspiration and critical tech design discussion, how do we currently integrate technology into bodies?

  • Team project: creative game controller. Design a unique way of physically pressing buttons or moving the controller to play your game.

    • Feedback session 

3. WEDNESDAY: Rapid Prototyping Basics 


  • Overview of prototyping techniques and processes, from low-fi mock-ups in cardboard and paper to more sophisticated technologies.

  • Tour and training in NYU Maker Space, with emphasis on laser cutter 


  • Design an element of your controller to fabricate in maker space

  • Brief overview of Adobe Illustrator

  • Low-Fi mock-up

    • Feedback session 

  • Part of team laser cuts final version, other part continues to prototype electronics 

  • Finish game controller, test and document

4. THURSDAY: Interfacing with Sensors


  • Reading Analog inputs: light sensors 

  • Creative project: making a nocturnal “creature”

wearable speaker techAfternoon

  • Importing and using libraries

  • Sensing party: Sound sensor, temperature sensor, capacitive sensor, temperature sensor, infrared motion sensor

  • Alternative game controller project: design a game controller that responds to sensor input, rather than button presses.

5. FRIDAY: Tying it all together


  • Alternative game controller project continued

  • Intro to soldering: using screw terminals and PCB’s to make circuits more stable


  • Design game in Processing as necessary. 

  • Prototype enclosure (time pending)

  • Field trip to creative tech space in NYC: Eyebeam, Pioneerworks, Bitforms, or The Shed, depending on programming

Week 02: Wearables

6. MONDAY: Intro to Soft Interfaces


  • Conductive tape circuit: the challenges of uninsulated materials

  • How to sew conductive thread by hand

  • Optional: sewing machine basics

  • Plan for project: Creative switch completion with conductive thread and sewable LEDS

    • Consider switch placement, insulating fabric 

    • Paper prototype


  • Project continued: Creative switch completion with conductive thread and sewable LEDS

  • Document and share work 

  • Introduction to the many options for wearable microcontrollers, intro to Lilypad, prototyping with alligator clips and snaps

7. TUESDAY: Wireless Communication and Soft Sensors


  • Wearables and Sci-Fi: Lecture and conversation about how sci-fi has influenced interface development

  • Discuss how tech relates to the body, identity, self-expression, cosplay

  • Quick Surrealist game: exquisite corpse

  • Conductive fabric pressure pads: reading with a voltage divider, quick test


  • Lecture: the importance of separating power supplies. Demo: servo motors + sensors

    • Quick project choice: Autofilter re-design OR Conductive fabric buttons and stretch sensors incorporate into a soft game controller using Arduino Uno  

8. WEDNESDAY: Creative Wearable Design


  • Complete and share Autofilter re-designs or soft game controller

  • Pitch topics for wearable interface projects, form groups

  • Paper prototype, what materials are needed?


  • Breadboard tests for building out final project, start with Uno 

  • Designing for mobility: consider Uno vs. Lilypad, and what accompanying enclosures may be necessary. 

9. THURSDAY: Moving to a finished prototype


  • Feedback session: show your design so far, and seek input on both technical execution and concept

  • Consider how to move into finished garment/interface: final project supply hunting, ½ the class may go to Fulton Fabrics and ½ to craft store. 


  • Final project production continued: soldering to PCB’s or sewing with conductive thread, move to battery power. 

  • Troubleshooting tips 

10. FRIDAY: Documentation


  • Brief feedback session, discuss options for documentation

  • Film documentation OR continue working if still troubleshooting 


  • Present prototypes and documentation to other classes, visitors

Who Can Apply?

student wearing tech

  • Rising 9th through rising 12th grade students interested in learning at the intersection of art, design, and technology
  • Academically prepared, highly motivated students who are willing to take initiative
  • Students with a passion for learning software and hardware skills and tools and applying them to developing creative expression

Program Details

Choose one of the following sessions when you apply *student dancing

  • Session 1: June 22, 2020 - July 3rd, 2020 
  • Session 2: July 13, 2020 - July 24, 2020  
  • Session 3: August 3rd, 2020 - August 14, 2020

*Orientation for all sessions will take place the Sunday before the first day of your program, starting at 4pm. 

Final Application Deadline: April 13th, 2020

Program Costs

  • Tuition: $2,000 + $100 Program Fee (special events and activities) per two-week session
  • Housing is available at an additional cost of $558 for 2 weeks
  • Meal plan is available at additional cost of $340 (10 meals/week for two weeks) and is required with housing

Questions? Contact us at or 646.997.3524 or check out our Tandon Summer Programs Blog for general information about housing and international applications.