31.07.2015

The friendship bracelets that teach programming

Image | Jewelbots

One of the most important things to an adolescent girl is her group of friends. Years ago this idea of the group was reflected in the little folded-up (and folded again) notes girls would pass to each other in the classroom. But everything changes, and today these kinds of communications are carried out using smartphones. And now there’s another alternative too: recently given a boost by Kickstarter, the startup Jewelbots adds a new dimension to these silent communications typical of teen and pre-teen girls.

Jewelbots is a programmable friendship bracelet that vibrates and lights up. By means of some very simple programming, conducted using an app, girls that use it can determine when they want to receive notifications, and what type: light, vibration, or a combination of both. For example, if they have a new follower on Instagram the bracelet can emit a green light, and if the boy they like has written to them via Facebook it can vibrate twice and light up red. A group of friends can also program their bracelets with their own special colour, in which case the bracelet will flash whenever one of them approaches.

This bracelet consists of a band with a flower, 4 LED bulbs, and a button. After a first stage of programming, for which a connection with the iOS or Android application is required, Jewelbots runs all by itself, its battery lasting up to 3 days.  The wearable employs open-source technology, and communicates with other bracelets via Bluetooth. After the publication of the financing campaign on Kickstarter, the project raked in the 30,000 USD that it needed in just 19 hours. As of today, the crowdfunding campaign has raised over 137,000 USD, thanks to the support of almost 1,500 people.

JavaScript developer Sara Chipps was inspired by her own teenage years to cofound this innovative startup, along with Brooke Moreland, an entrepreneur interested in technology and fashion. Jewelbot’s main aims include encouraging girls to take in interest in science and technology. According to a study conducted in 2012 by the Girl Scout Institute, 75% of adolescent girls expressed an interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). However, the numbers who ultimately end up choosing careers in these fields are much lower.

Through Jewelbots an effort is made to teach teenage and pre-teen girls the fun side of programming, as the sciences are not incompatible with their most feminine side. Sarah Chipps explains: “Girls are not one-dimensional. We want to show them that you can be interested in technology, and all the other things that girls like too.” For those who are really interested in getting the most out of their bracelet, ARDUINO software will allow them to explore and program hundreds of variables, such that wearing a Jewelbots bracelet represents a first step into the technology sector.

In short, the startup has managed to devise and develop a customisable product-accessory that strengthens bonds between friends while encouraging their curiosity about technology. It is slated to hit the market in spring of 2016.