Birchwood High (Bishops Stortford)

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E-Textiles Tablet Cases

Anne Reynolds and Roger Newman from Birchwood High have recently developed a successful new e-textiles project making tablet cases with year 8 students. The idea was originally instigated by another member of the team, John Stephens, some years ago and has now been developed further. Other members of the team, George Walker, Lori Jackson, Lucille Meah, Ron Wilson, Alex Dedman, and Olivia Gadd have also supported this project by delivering discreet sub tasks. 

The project has been an adventurous move for the department with all 240 students set to experience it across the year. The first cohort of students have now completed the project and they were VERY excited when they made the circuits work with the boys enjoying the project as much as the girls.

The example work above was produced by Annabel and shows the circuit fabric slotting inside the flap, the circuit itself with a push switch, and the finished bag. 

Tips for teachers from Anne, Roger & the team

  • In order to reduce the costs get students to bring in recycled fabric from home
  • The circuits were stitched onto recycled upholstery material as this is hidden inside the bag (example shown below was produced by Jacob)
  • The LEDs either shine out through the fabric (if its light weight enough) or poke through eyelets fitted onto thicker fabric.
  • Focus on getting one LED to work, in a series circuit first. Then create a parallel circuit (off the positive and negative legs of the first LED) to power the remaining LEDs the students want to add. This gives the students (and their teachers!) some interim goal/success and confidence that the circuit will work. It also makes it easier to diagnose any problems if things don't work first time. 
  • Some students used several LEDs and the team found that you can easily run 8 LEDs with a 3V battery.
  • Keep the bag component relatively simple, subject to how much teaching time is available. Birchwood High have 2 hours a week over 12 weeks – 24hrs in total 
  • Once the bag and “circuit cloth” are made then extension tasks can be around decoration. Birchwood also kept an extension task up their sleeves of designing/making a switch using the same materials as the push switch (HIPS and copper track) but one that can stay ‘on’ all the time.

Interesting ideas the project uses


Anne and Roger developed an interesting way to create a larger more stable loop when twisting the legs on the LEDs. The legs are twisted around a metal eyelet which is crimped. Although this created a better loop and gave a better connection the students in year 8 found the eyelet tool hard to use because they weren’t strong enough. The team are aiming to attach the tool to a bench with long levers to overcome this and help students work more independently. 

Anne and Roger also developed their own cheap push switch made from HIPS plastic which is bent using a line bending tool. It is used with copper track to create the switch. Instructions on how this switch is made can be seen at the bottom of this page. 

Developments for the next rotation

Anne, Roger and the team have learnt a lot from the first rotation of students and will use this to help them improve the project for the next set of students. 

They are also going to encourage students to consider the functionality of the LEDs more rather than them just using them for decoration. This is a good thing to do as it is important to encourage students to recognise that e-textiles isn’t just a gimmick but also helps add value to a product. LEDs on your laptop case might, for example, be a useful torch to help you find your keys when you are rummaging through your bag as you stand by your front door in the dark!

The example work below was produced by Emily and Bronte and shows the circuit fabric slotting inside the flap, and how the LED shines through a lighter weight material. 

Click here to see a PDF of the step by step process of how the e-textiles part of the laptop case was made

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