What happens when you ask students to engineer clothing that responds to the world around them?

In this video, Senior Fellow Kate Miller describes a wearable electronics unit that she and other teachers implemented at Upward Bound, a summer camp aimed at preparing first-generation and low-income high school students from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area for college. Students engaged with the engineering design process as they drafted, sewed, optimized, and presented a unique garment. Students also learned to program lights to respond to sensory input, and attached these to the clothing itself. The project culminated in a fashion show, both in the light and the dark.

Photo credit: University of Wisconsin-River Falls Upward Bound Program.


Watch this video to see the project’s progression and learn about the teachers’ thoughts and reflections, including:

  • how students’ authentic learning is a reflection of the teachers’ authentic learning,
  • a realization of preconceived gender bias around who can do engineering, and
  • how this project has inspired similar ways of teaching and learning in more traditional classroom contexts.

Special thanks to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Upward Bound program and the National Science Foundation-supported IceCube Neutrino Observatory and PolarTREC for their ongoing support of student learning.

This [summer] project was an example of real, authentic, get-your-hands-messy, make-mistakes, not-quite-sure-where-we’re-going-to-end-up sort of learning,” and it stuck with the teachers well into the school year.”

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Kate Miller, a Knowles Senior Fellow, is currently in her fifth year of teaching physics at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia. In her free time, Kate enjoys training parkour and Krav Maga. Reach Kate at kate.miller@ knowlesteachers.org.