CARPA: Urban Camo

CARPA is a project organized by Carole Lung,  Otto von Busch, Sara Clugage in which is a tongue and cheek response to DARPA. I highly recommend checking out their website :


I was part of Operation Pulled Pork as a urban response in Portland, OR. A group of AC+D members were asked to be apart of the project. I was hesitant at first because it seems to be very focused on traditional craft. Which as we all know really isn’t my motif, but the head of our dept thought I should do it anyways. After the first meeting, which was a walk through of the past iteration of the project and then being sworn into as recruits. This part was really hilarious and great we literally got sworn under a carpa oath.

After some conversations with the other CARPA recruits Lauren Sinner and I decided to  collaborate and tackle a bigger more complex project. To be honest we really just wanted a reason to make light up patches and this just so happens to be perfect for the project.

To create this light up patch, I knew they made a side glow fiber optic. It was made as a alternative to neon lighting. The only catch is I have no idea how to make things with fibers and this is why Lauren was a person to work with again.  She taught me about looms and how to weave, which I thought would be easier but keeping track of the pattern can be pretty difficult. In the end I finally caught on with the watchful eye of Lauren making sure I didn’t mess it up. During this we also decided to make the project open source and document the process and all of the information and to create video on how to do the process. We have to finish compiling those. We put that part on hold until after the semester was over so we could better focus. So all the plans and information on how to build this will be uploaded later.

We ended up having to make a custom loom for the project which is when I could be helpful and teach Lauren about laser cutting.  Lauren then should me how to twill weave and we cut it off our loom.





The filament is rather beautiful as is. It would catch light in the most beautiful ways. I spent a lot of time transfixed on the way I was able to use the LEDs and cast light down the filament. It illuminates and creates a rich diffused color, I was captivated as soon as I saw it. I have a huge number of photos of me playing with the LEDs I didn’t even include most of them.





I soon made the realisation that I could cluster three strands in front of one of the LEDs. So I cracked open rhino and printed some little holders. that led to the finished piece. The holders would grab and pinch the wire enough that they wouldn’t slip.


This made it way easier to try and hold the strands up to the LEDs.




Soon after I transitioned the small squares into a block that held both the LEDs in place as well as the filament. This was the first version of the final holder that would be able to be sewn onto clothing.

I actually don’t have a photo of the part for some reason but you can see it glow in the photos.




Eventually I moved it to being black and more dense to help block out light from bleeding through the plastic. I also printed off new holders to help organize the filament clusters.




We also started illuminating the warp and the weft. Photos don’t do it justice neither does a video but it’s way cooler.


We also wanted to make the patch interactive so we incorporated a photocell so that it could be photoreactive.  This is where I was able to really shine, then I realise I still am really bad at coding. As always I went to my code guru Dom Amato. I met Dom while working at BBCM he has been a true lifesaver.  Anyways after Dom walked me through the coding to make a photocell react to a number of flashes I was able to achieve this.


After this I went on to create a circuit using Fritzing, a great software for creating circuits that are etchable. This was version one that was still only able to be ran off of the USB cable. I eventually made v2 that was capable of being battery operated for the final version.



Version 2 much cleaner and a way better etching and it also include our sweet codenames.


The circuit was built to be populated with:
Trinket 5v
JST battery clip
Neopixel wires

This was the first version of the full assembly and some photos of it light up.




This is the final version  of the setup.


Lauren and I were ready for deployment!




 I will post a new blog with all the materials on how to build it. when we finish that part up.



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