Introducing the Adafruit Flora Wearable Development Kit, provided to us by Newark Element14 for review and giveaway! This kit will allow you to integrate the electronics you are programming into clothing, bags, accessories and more.

I tested the kit by making my own wearable electronic project: an illuminated clutch! You can follow along to find out how you would make a similar item yourself. For now, back to the set!

What’s in the set?

adafruit-flora-whale-all
In this $160 Adafruit Flora Wearables Dev Kit, you’ll get Flora, various sensors, some NeoPixels and LEDs, and lots of tools you’ll need to get started with wearable electronics projects.

Here is the complete set of Newark’s Flora development tools.

Flora

flora_659_orig
Adafruit Flora (Version 1 in this kit) is a round, sewable, Arduino-compatible microcontroller that is the center of the entire system. It is designed so that all components are leaning against the board wherever possible so that it does not snag on the fabric.

You can program it via the mini USB port, which offers 3.3 volts of adjustable power. It has a reset button and a switch that works when powered by battery.

Neopixels and sensors

flora-sensors and-pixels

The Newark Flora Developer Kit includes eight Flora RGB neo-pixels, individually addressable RGB LEDs that are really easy to work with. There are also four sensors that you can use to collect location, time, light, color, motion, and direction data.

  • Wearable GPS-module Flora. This allows you to track the location of the project and keep it in sync with local time.
  • TSL2561 Flora lux sensor: it detects the light level.
  • LSM303 Flora Accelerometer / Compass Sensor: It detects movement and direction.
  • TCS34725 Flora Color Sensor: This also detects the color of the object you have touched.

Supplies for sewing and wearable projects

Of course, you will find several items for attaching your electronics to the fabric.

IMGP9290

  • Fine and medium stainless steel conductive filament
  • Needle set
  • Magnetic pin back
  • Woven Conductive Fabric

Electronics supplies

Finally, there are plenty of basic electronic components to complete the set.

flora-electronics

  • Three AAA battery compartment
  • 12 Alligator Clamps
  • USB cable
  • Four AAA alkaline batteries
  • Two PN2222 transistors
  • Two 5mm IR LEDs
  • Two 100 ohm resistors
  • Tactile switch
  • JST-PH battery extension cable

Beginning

You can find many projects and tutorials at the Adafruit Learning Center. Becky Stern and Tyler Cooper of Adafruit have also published the book Make: Getting Started with Adafruit Flora which can be found on Amazon.com for $15.

You can learn how to program with Arduino. (on which Flora is based) and here in .

Test Project: Chameleon Clutch Wallet

In order to test this Flora development kit, I decided to make a backlit clutch. The lights can change color to match the accessories you are wearing or the objects around you. The light is also programmed to get brighter in a dark room.

Building the Clutch and Adding Electronics

Flora-light up clutch finished

I crocheted Drew Emborski’s Berry Sweet Clutch pattern and made a few changes. I added a midnight blue frame, a strap, and attached five fabric-friendly NeoPixels to the patch. Obviously, if you want to make a project like this, you don’t need to knit a wallet! You can sew a tote, knit a scarf, or use whatever textile craft skills you have — or simply upgrade something already in your wardrobe.

Here is an image of what the bag looks like inside out.

Flora-light up clutch inside

NeoPixels connect to Flora, battery, button, Flora light sensor and Flora color sensor with a 3-layer conductive thread that is stuffed into the wallet and woven between the yarns.

flora-light up clutch

In the diagram above, the red lines represent power and the black lines represent ground. Other colors are for different lines of data from pixels and sensors.

Flora Programming

After setting up the Arduino Flora IDE and installing the board, appropriate drivers, and libraries, I programmed the color sensor to turn on every time the project was turned on. It shines a bright light onto the subject to get accurate color readings. NeoPixels read this data and match the colors.

If you’re happy with this feature, you can find detailed instructions on how to put it together by following Adafruit’s Chameleon Scarf instructions and adapting where needed.

Since I was going to see what could be done with more of the kit, I added an ambient light sensor so the NeoPixels are programmed to dim in bright conditions and brighten in the dark. I also added a button to switch between different modes to change colors just for fun. Here is the code I developed.

Overcoming difficulties

For me, the hardest part of this project was making sure my conductive threaded connections were making proper contact with the Flora’s gold pads because I didn’t solder them together.

I had a multimeter available — a handy tool that I recommend making to make your experience in wearable electronics easier. A multimeter helps you check which points in your circuit are electrically connected (plus a lot more).

Alternative project ideas

Interested in this kit but want to get the most out of it? Order yourself an extra Flora and 16 NeoPixel Light Rings and you can make how a chameleon accessory like this clutch (or hat, scarf, belt, necklace…), so and Flora NeoGeo watch.

If you’re a cyclist and want to do something really useful, sew some NeoPixels into the back of your windbreaker, connect them to an accelerometer and light sensor, and you can make your own brake light when you’re cycling!

You’ll find many more Flora project ideas on the Adafruit website.

Are you ready to make a wearable device?

If you have a basic knowledge of electronics or textile arts, this kit from Newark is a great way to take the leap to another field or combine those interests in your first wearable tech piece.

If you’re new to electronics and textiles, jumping straight into wearables won’t be easy, but it can be done. I’m new to both and I’ve consulted with other DIY crafters they know (shout Daniel Amaya and Andrew Cocimiglio) when my circuits or code didn’t work correctly. It goes a long way if you can attend manufacturer meetings, jobs, etc. to be close to other people who are working on DIY projects in the same location where you are. If there are no such groups in your area, Stack Exchange and the Adafruit Forum are an active place to get help with wearable electronics projects. They even host weekly video chats with engineers.

The Adafruit Learning Center also offers many helpful resources to help you learn how to code and connect electrical circuits to wearable projects. If you’re really new to electronics, this will help you learn the basics of the circuit and the safety issues associated with it first (although you won’t do much damage to this kit if you make sure the power line never touches your ground line).

Is Newark’s Flora Development Kit right for you?

The kit may be overkill if you are already a fabricator or crafter with lots of supplies. You may already have some sewing parts (eg conductive thread, needles) or basic electronic components (eg LED lights, resistors, transistors, alligator clips).

If you’re not interested in building specific projects, you can save money by purchasing only the parts you need. After all, if your projects don’t need location or timing functionality, you can get a kit without a GPS sensor, which ends up being the most expensive part of that kit. Or, conversely, if location features are important and you don’t need other sensors, try the Flora GPS Starter Kit instead.

Thanks again to Newark Element14 for providing us with a testing kit! If you’d like to win a complete set for yourself, enter below and let us know what project you’d like to create in the comments!

Our project verdict Flora Arduino :
The Flora Arduino Project Kit contains everything you could possibly need to build wearables with extensive online documentation, but consider if you really need GPS functionality for your project. 7 ten

Submit your products for review. Contact James Bruce for more information.

The authors Images: Flora Original by Becky Stern via Adafruit.

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