ASU technology weaves electronics, indigenous culture

November 20, 2014

The misconception that technology includes anything with a microchip is prevalent today, but technology goes beyond just mere circuits and wires.

Arizona State University’s E2 (ethno-electronic) Textiles Project combines hundreds of years of indigenous culture and melds it with electronics to create educational, innovative art – a perfect balance that simultaneously honors the past as it steps toward the future. clothing with LED lights sewn into it Download Full Image

Featured in ASU’s newest College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Magazine, professor Bryan Brayboy of ASU’s School of Social Transformation explains that e-textiles introduce lights, namely LED lights, in apparel such as boots, jackets and shirts, much like the clothing worn by the band Black Eyed Peas during their 2011 halftime show at the Super Bowl.

“E2-textiles allow us to connect computer science programming and what people already know,” Brayboy said.

An example of “what’s known” is the numerous canal systems seen throughout the valley created by the Hohokam; Brayboy calls this type of native knowledge Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS).

“Combining indigenous ways of knowledge with computer programming helps young people understand technology is not just electronics,” Brayboy said.

Brayboy said he hopes the program resonates with students and their culture.

“I want to help young people see the connection between IKS and programming, and get people to understand that technology is also about utilizing the environment around you to survive,” Brayboy said. “Your iPad is not the only form of technology.”

Brayboy credits Kristin Searle, a doctoral candidate from University of Pennsylvania and affiliate faculty with ASU, for bringing the project to ASU.

“I knew we needed a grant partner who could facilitate a strong partnership with a native community and Dr. Brayboy was able to do that through ASU’s Center for Indian Education,” Searle said.

“The idea with e-textiles is not only to make art that is pleasing to look at, but develop that art with technology in the form of computer programming through student creation,” Brayboy said. “Students use a computer to program a microcontroller, a Lilypad Arduino, the size of a quarter. This small computer is sewn into the clothing with conductive thread, and what the student has programmed determines whether the LEDs light up to the beat of music or other things.”

Searle is collaborating with Cristobal Martinez, an ASU graduate student whose abilities have proven invaluable to the project.

“He’s a master artist and an energetic teacher,” Searle said. “His scholarship constantly brings new perspectives to bear on our collective research.”

“Martinez and Searle spend around 40 minutes a day with young people teaching them what it is to be a native person,” Brayboy said. “What does it mean for these students to learn about their culture and native language? You get to do this and still be an O’odham or Piipaash.”

The ability of the program to travel from classroom-to-classroom is key to the program’s success.

“Nothing is more rewarding than when a student seeks out a computer to program an e-textile birthday present for her mother outside of class time or when a teacher reports that a student wore his light-up jacket throughout English class,” Searle said. “Students’ curiosity and the ways in which they have experimented with and pushed back against our curriculum have fundamentally altered how we think about teaching and learning with e-textiles materials.”

Not only does the project provide illuminating, intrinsic value, but it’s potentially a lifesaving tool. Lighted apparel can alert drivers to the presence of children on the street or road, and it is especially useful in places like Alaska, where children walk to school during Alaska’s 24-hour cycle of darkness.

“It’s a big issue in Alaska when it gets dark in the winter,” Brayboy said. “You can do this with reflective tape too, but it’s the process of creating art and design that is compelling.”

As the project grows and continues to evolve, Brayboy is already thinking about what’s next for the project.

“The next iteration for us is how to potentially introduce programming courses out at Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community taught by faculty at ASU,” Brayboy said. “What we’re talking about here is an opportunity for people to be involved with their community and to be computer scientists.

“That is what we should be doing as an institution. Giving students who are invested in the state the power to accomplish their goals,” he said.

Read more about this project, alumni, student and faculty stories: CLAS Magazine.

Story written by Anthony Costello

Margaret Coulombe

Director, Executive Communications, Office of the University Provost


Students serve their community at Day of Service in downtown Phoenix

November 20, 2014

Students, faculty, staff and supporters gathered at the Human Services Campus in central Phoenix, Nov. 15, for a Day of Service, organized by Arizona State University’s College of Public Programs.

It is the second time that the daylong event has been held at the campus. Last year, the group helped in a number of areas on the 12-acre campus – from general cleanup and organizing, to working in the community garden. student volunteers harvesting vegetables in a garden Download Full Image

David Bridge, managing director of the campus, notes that volunteer efforts at last year’s inaugural event made the pilot of the Brian Garcia Welcome Center possible – and since then, more than 5,000 people have come through the welcome center and been assessed and directed to needed resources.

“This event brings together students, faculty and staff for a special, invigorated recognition of the work that is being done on the Human Service Campus, and also showcases opportunities and needs for student volunteer service, applied research, student internships and many other forms of college support throughout the entire year,” says Dale Larsen, director of community relations for the College of Public Programs.

A vision to end homelessness

The Human Services Campus is a unique collaboration of over a dozen service agencies and community partners. Each day, clients coming to the center find shelter, medical, employment and housing resources. The campus is also home to a community garden, which provides over 2,000 pounds of food and valuable training to clients on the campus.

Key government and nonprofit partners include Maricopa County, St. Vincent de Paul, TERROS Safe Haven, Central Arizona Shelter Services, the Lodestar Day Resource Center and St. Joseph the Worker.

Bridge noted that the campus is working with its partners to implement evidence-based best practices, including collaboration and housing solutions that make it possible to “end homelessness in our community.” Phoenix has already demonstrated the effectiveness of these strategies by becoming the first city in America to end chronic homelessness for veterans. Bridge was excited to have ASU be a part of these community efforts.

“The solutions are there,” says David Smith, COO, St. Vincent de Paul. He told students that they “are the cusp generation to take knowledge gained of homelessness and recidivism, and actually solve them.”

Embracing the value of public service

Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Programs, says that the work during Day of Service touches on every aspect of the college.

“The campus connects the substance of our programs – social work, criminology, nonprofit management, public administration – to the actual challenges and solutions in our community,” he says.

“No matter what you are studying, this is an opportunity to apply those lessons to real life,” he told students at the event. “Your work contributes to the success of the campus and has an impact on the lives of the people here.”

This year, the event was planned by students in a PRM 486 class taught by college events manager, Michelle Oldfield.

Michelle Green, a general studies student in the School of Letters and Sciences, said, “Not only did I get to participate as a volunteer, but I got to assist in planning this Day of Service that reached so many people.

“The Day of Service is an awesome opportunity for college students to get out into their community and really give back. I believe events like this are extremely beneficial; they help those less fortunate, and allow for students to get out of their comfort zone and gain a sense of purpose,” she said.

“I've been a part of a few ASU Day of Service events in Tempe before, but this was my first time doing one based out of the Downtown Phoenix campus,” says Ellyse Crow, a management and business communication major in the W. P. Carey School of Business. “It was unique because the location that we were serving was so close to campus, and the facilities serve a population that I see regularly when I'm downtown. So it was cool to know who I was helping.

“I want to work in university administration one day,” Crow explains. “Sharing with others the importance of giving back to your community is an important life lesson, and one that is especially powerful in college. University students have so much influence that is never realized. I think being active in the community and opportunities like this bring some of that out.”

To learn more about the Human Services Campus, visit

Heather Beshears

director marketing and communications, College of Public Service and Community Solutions