Final Project: “Somewhere special”


My final project is titled “somewhere special”. It is a pair of boots that light up when walking in specific locations across Toronto that have special significance for me. Moving to Toronto meant a lot for me: new city, new friends, and a new kind of life. It also implied big changes: living alone, living far away from my family, and leaving my home country for a long period of time. From everyday-places to spots that represent unique moments, I aim to create this project as a time machine for myself. Something that I could wear in the future to help me reconnect with memories from the unique adventure of living here as a grad student. I don’t know if I will stay or leave Toronto after completing my masters but I certainly know that those places will always represent a special time in my life.


Visual documentation (photos and video) of the completed project

Version 1:

photo 2

photo 1


Version 2: photo


Final version

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4 photo 5




Related projects & other research

  • Flora GPS Jacket:

It is a Jacket that lights up when approaching and arriving to a specific location that have been set up and uploaded previously to the Flora main board. Check the video!

I used this project as the foundation for my project – same logic, code and materials – yet I had to edit the code to be able to add more than one location and have a color representing each location.




  • No Place Like Home (GPS shoes):

In 2012, Dominic Wilcox created a pair of GPS shoes that guide the wearer to specific locations. Here is a video of Wilcox explaining the project.




  • GPS Logging Dog Harness

Another project also made by Adafruit with Flora Wearable Ultimate GPS module is the GPS Logging Dog Harness. It tracks and maps the traces walked by the dog when wearing the harness. To see the traces, it is necessary to copy the latitude and longitude registered by the GPS module.





  • GPS Smart Sole

It is an award winning product based on soles that track the wearer’s location and sends the information to a smartphone or tablet. This is the link to the website.



Parts & Materials list:

  •  Materials
    • Flora main board
    • Flora Wearable Ultimate GPS module
    • Flora RGB Smart Neopixels (5)
    • Conductive thread
    • Regular thread
    • White fabric
    • Alkaline AAA batteries (3)
  • Tools
    • Needles
    • Small Alligator Clip Test Lead
    • USB cable – A/MiniB – 3ft


The prototyping process:

My initial intention for the form of the product was a brooch, but throughout the process indicated below it evolved as a pair of boots.


  • Step 1: Sketching version 1

I wanted the brooch to resemble the location icon, like this:

location icon


These are some of the initial sketches:

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4


  • Step 2: Testing the components and preparing the sources

Before I started working on my project, I downloaded the version of Arduino IDE provided by Adafruit. Then, I tested to make sure that the GPS module and the five Neopixels were working correctly. The Flora main board was tested while working with GPS and Neopixels.

First I had to download the GPS library and the Neopixels library:

Tutorials for testing each component:


  • Step 3: Building and testing the circuit

I used Adafruit’s diagram, but I made some changes: first, instead of including eight Neopixels in the LED’s string, I only used five. Second, I added an extra battery for the GPS module. The following is the conclusive diagram.


The positive (+) pads of each LED should be connected to the power bus (VBATT) of the Flora. The negative (-) pads of each LED should be connected to the ground bus (GND) of the Flora.  Then, the short data connections should be connected following the arrows.

The GPS module  connects to the Flora on the other side of the board: the ground bus of the Flora should be connected to the ground bus of the GPS module. The TX ground of the Flora connects to the RX bus of the GPS module. The RX bus of the Flora  connects to the TX bus of the GPS module. And the 3.3V bus of the module and the Flora also connect.

To connect the GPS module to an additional power supply (a 3.3V coin battery): The power bus of the module connects to the battery holder (+) on the positive side, and the ground bus of the module is connected to the negative side (-) of the battery holder.

Before sewing the circuit, I built it using small alligators.


  • Step 4: Version 1

The sewed circuit looked nice but it had some issues: The main problem with this initial prototype is that it was too big, even though I worked with both sides of the fabric as individual surfaces, connecting the circuit became complicated. I also attempted to work with layers of fabric but it looked too bulky.

Furthermore, I made a mistake with the circuit: I got confused and did not connect all the positive and negative sides of the Neopixels as a string. Instead I only connected the first one and the last one. However I did it correctly with the small alligators and it worked properly.

photo 1photo 2

photo 2


  • Step 5: User testing version 1

Here is when I realized that the circuit was not properly sewed and that it was too heavy and big to work as a brooch. Other complications I encountered with this version is that using the AAA battery holder within the prototype wasn’t working well, and that the sticky velcro used to open and close the prototype doesn’t work well.


  • Step 6: Version 2

After user testing the first version, I decided to have all the components on one layer, and on the same side except for the battery holder for the GPS module- which I attached on the back side and the AAA battery holder- which has an independent pocket.

Also, I maintained the same visual structure of the circuit, but I decided to attach the circuit to a pair of boots. Only one of the boots has the circuit.

This time the circuit was properly sewed.



  • Step 7: Fixing the code

Fixing the code was perhaps the longest step. I used Adafruit’s code of the Flora GPS Jacket and with extra help I edited the following features:

  1. Adafruit’s code allows for adding only one location. I fixed it to have unlimited locations.
  2. Adafruit’s code comes with only one pre-set colour. I fixed it to have one color per location. Now it allows for as many colour variations as the RGB scale combination.
  3. Adafruit’s code comes with a destination distance of 20 meters, I changed this in favor of 2m
  4. Finally, Adafruit’s code considers only a two-LED string. I changed this in favor of 5 LEDs.

Here it is the code. I have highlighted the edited sections.


  • Step 8: Testing version 2

The second version of the prototype ended up working well. Here is a video of me testing the boots!


Circuit layout:



  • Challenges:

The main challenge was to fix the code for the purposes of my project. Despite that I was using a pre-made code given by Adafruit, adapting it to my meet my goals became challenging. However, with extra helping hands the project turned out awesome.

Another challenge I encountered was the connection of GPS module. Firstly, it only works outside, and secondly, it takes long – sometimes more than 30min to get connected and find the location, especially in areas with high buildings. Some of the signals that it was not quite connected were for instance-only one LED would light up but the rest don’t despite the fact that all were properly connected from one single string.


  • Successes:

The project achieved all the proposed goals! Additionally, I improved my skills in coding  Arduino a little bit  and learned how to set up different lighting sequences in the Neopixels with the Flora.


  • Next steps

In the future, I would like to have the two boots to light up with one GPS module. Hence, I may need to research if a bluetooth module can achieve this. Beyond this project, I’m extremely interested in continuing to improve my skills in wearable electronics.