We may have just entered a new age in fashion...and coding. Tech-friendly friendship bracelets called "Jewelbots" are being developed for young girls who might have a future in STEM. The Kickstarter for the product surpassed its original $30,000 goal and raised $166,945. While Jewelbots are marketed toward young girls, it's definitely worth noting that boys could find the wearable tech just as inviting and engaging.
What Exactly are Jewelbots?
The bracelet itself consists of a hair-band type elastic bracelet with a translucent flower charm attached on it. The bracelets come in an assortment of colors. The translucent charm lights up depending on the programmed functions.
Each bracelet works right out of the box. They have basic functions such as flashing a certain color when a friend with a bracelet is nearby or sending messages back and forth. They even vibrate like a cell phone when the message is received.
In addition to these features, people can program their tech-jewelry using basic coding to do "just about anything." The company hopes that this will "open their minds to STEM during an age when many lose interest." Young women are curious about these fields. Girls, as the Kickstarter page explains, "are not one dimensional." Exposing them to all of the things coding can do, and showing them that they can use these skills without having a formal coding education, could inspire a future career.
How Do They Work?
Each bracelet pairs with a smartphone (Android or iOS) using bluetooth. No special account is needed, so parents don't have to worry about personal information or passwords being shared. The bracelets are a "mesh network and communicate with each other using bluetooth." After the initial setup, no wifi or phone is needed, unless the wearer want to program the bracelet further.
In terms of coding, users can program with the Arduino IDE, (Integrated Development Environment). All you have to do is plug the bracelet into a computer using the micro USB. There really isn't a limit to what the technology can be instructed to do, especially since its all open source. The examples from the Kickstarter page include lighting up when a parent is on his way to pick them up. or flashing in relation to social media interactions (like when they have a new Instagram like).
The Jewelbots website helps new coders out; code snippets are available on the website and can be easily customized. If they make something they are really proud of, you can even share your code with the online Jewelbots community (or get support if you have a question).
Coding as a Family
Another great project the Jewelbots founders are working on is called "Take Your Daughter to Hack Day." This is a day long event that lets parents and kids "create a wearable project using the Arduino Gemma and a HTML/CSS workshop." They also compete to see who can create the best Tumblr theme.
These groups may even help design the next Jewelbot technology. The original design choices came straight from test groups. They work with both hardware and software during this event that's open to all ages and genders. No coding experience is necessary!
Jewelbots might not be the next Apple Watch, but co-founder Sara Chipps does hope the technology will help increase the number of girls entering Stem Fields. She is working toward this goal in other ways as well. In 2010, she co-founded Girl Develop It!, a national non-profit that has taught over 17,000 women how to build software.
Since the Kickstarter deadline has passed, Jewelbots can no longer be preordered through investing. Can't wait? Check the website for updates and sign up for the mailing list to be the first to know when they are ready to order. Beta testing begins this September, according to the company's timeline. The first round of Jewelbots is scheduled to ship out on March 16, 2016.