Squat Mate by Grace Yuan

Squat Mate

Project Description

As we spend most of the time at home during the Coivd-19 pandemic, the idea of home fitness and indoor workout tends to become more popular. Squatting is one of the exercises that I found extremely beneficial and can easily be done anywhere. Personally, I do squat every day for exercising and keeping myself motivated. Doing squats helps to strengthen the core and the muscles of the lower body.

Squat Mate is a wearable device that monitors the user’s posture when squat to exercise. It is designed to be worn on the top of the user’s thigh, to detect leg movement. There are three LED lights on the device to represent three modes of the signals. (1)When standing still, the yellow LED lights up to indicate that the device is turned on and the user is not moving. (2)As the user squat, the orange LED lights up, indicating the user is squatting at a proper depth. (3)If the user squats and bends their knees beyond 90 degrees, the red LED lights up and warns the user. Going below a 90-degree bend puts lots of weight on the knees and can cause injury. The goal of the device is to help the user maximize the squatting exercises safely and correctly.

The device mainly consists of a circuit and a pouch with adjustable straps. The pouch is made of acrylic felt to hold the circuit board and wires. Three LED lights are sewed on the pouch with conductive threads for connecting to the circuit with alligator clips. The adjustable straps are made of sturdy ribbons with velcro tapes sewing at both ends, allowing the user to put on the device according to their thigh circumference. The detection of the leg movements is based on the accelerometer data of the Arduino IMU sensor. It reads the bending angle of the leg and triggers the corresponding LEDs to light up. Squat Mate is a wearable device that belongs to the movement sensing category. According to Clint Zeagler, “placing the sensor on the thigh or just above ankle would be appropriate.” The visible feedback of LEDs is also easy to read because of the placement of the device.

Parts & Materials

(1) Arduino Nano 33 IOT
(1)Yellow LED
(1)Red LED
(1)USB charger
(1)Orange LED
(6)Aligator clips
(1)Half breadboard
Jumper wires
Velcro tapes
Black ribbon
Conductive thread
Black acrylic felt

Prototype Images

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Demo Video


Detail Images

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Circuit Diagram


Arduino Code


Project Context

Using the wearable device for tracking body movement or fitness has been quite popular. Notch Wearable Sensors can serve as a practical example. The notch is a motion capture system with up to 18 IMU sensors for detecting an athlete’s movement. You can purchase it as a kit and each kit comes with 6 sensors. Its LED lights system is designed to identify different sensors and where they are supposed to be worn. Each sensor unit contains 6 different colored lights. As the user selects a configuration for Notch on the phone app, it automatically assigns one color for each sensor. Similar to the Notch, Squat Mate also detects body movement and uses a velcro hook for fixing the device on the user’s body part.

Another related example would be the Heart Rate Monitor by Dmitry Dziuba from the MIT lab. This device is designed in the form of a watch, for the user to wear on their wrist. I found the design beautiful and well-integrated. The most eye-catching feature of its the bright and colorful Adafruit NeoPixel Ring that lights up or changes color as the user’s heartbeat changes. The concept of the Heart Rate Monitor and Squat Mate aligns – track body movement with IMU sensor and display them as visual feedbacks using LED lights.

There is another example with a really interesting concept and mechanism but very poorly constructed. This is a prototype from a youtube channel called Ultimate Robotics. The prototype integrates muscle controlled Electromyography (EMG) to control LED lights with the movement of fingers. Although the use of EMG is super creative and interesting, the prototype itself provides discomfort to the arm and the LEDs are not integrated into the design.


Chua, Julian. “Notch Wearable Sensor Review.” Sports Technology Blog, 29 Apr. 2019, sportstechnologyblog.com/2019/04/28/notch-wearable-sensor-review/.

Dziuba, Dmitry. “Heart Rate Monitor (Wearable and Wireless Using ECG).” Hackster.io, 6 Dec. 2020, www.hackster.io/aka3d6/heart-rate-monitor-wearable-and-wireless-using-ecg-e96dce.

Zeagler, Clint. “Where to Wear It.” Proceedings of the 2017 ACM International Symposium on Wearable Computers, 2017, doi:10.1145/3123021.3123042.

Hat Studio

I became fixated on this idea of wearing my studio on my head as soon as Kate mentioned the prototype, and I set to work looking for inspiration which for me often comes from childhood memories:  In this case:  shutterstock_editorial_5851001a-1024x665

Inspector Gadget whose hat is a high tech studio,


Caps for Sale, a story about a hat peddler,


and Paddington Bear, who always has a sandwich in his hat!

I thought these responded nicely to Hannah Perner-Wilson’s observation that “the studio provides infrastructure, shelter, space” (https://canvascloud.ocadu.ca/courses/1337/modules/items/108615).  I also thought of this description as a state of mind, so part of my mobile studio is to identify what hours of the week I will use for prototyping projects (Sunday, Monday and Wednesday).

1. Space(s): The Studio

I am lucky to have a studio environment where I will be doing my prototyping work for this class.  This is a picture of my studio –


it is on the top (attic) floor of our house.  It’s cold up here so I often work with a heating pad and blanket on my knees in the winter.  The main space I work on is the table at the centre of the room.  I always clear it at the end of the day unless I need to leave something out, but I like walking into a fresh work space as it helps me clear my head.  I store my tools and materials along the walls on shelving and in containers and drawers.  Not pictured are drawers of pencils/paper/markers/paint and a craft cart with things like beading wire, and odd bits and bobs of materials I collect (or rather, can’t bring myself to throw out). 

I have a desktop monitor and laptop I will use for any digital prototyping.  I learned to use Fusion 360 for modelling last semester and got a little more comfortable with illustrator.  Photoshop is a go-to tool for collaging images for ideas too. 

I have a dressmakers dummy that I will use for prototyping also – and I have a lot of styrofoam heads around too – I’m anticipating I will focus on hats, shoes and bags as areas to explore, but I’m excited to see what other inspirations come up!

I also have an outdoor studio space out of the city on my family’s farm.  One of the projects I am working on there is a series of musical dolls (using old movements from music boxes).  


These dolls are on wheels and made of plaster with layers of organic material overtop of them.  I’m curious to play around with conductivity of materials to see what other forms of communication these dolls might be possible to make.  I working on one version there which is a doll/moveable studio/storage cart.  Pictured is a prototype which I plan to finish this summer in black carbon fibre stackable boxes (mouse proof!).


2. Things

New Parts:


Materials Arrived!  Arduino Nano IoT 33 with headers – includes wifi & bluetooth, Breadboard, Through hole resistors 220 and 10K ohm, 5mm LEDs assorted colours, USB portable charger, Micro usb charger, Velostat, Multimeter

In Transit!  Full rotation micro servo, Jumper wires 3” and 12”, Alligator clips, Alligator to Jumper cables, Stainless Conductive Thread, Conductive Fabric

Coming Soon!  More conductive thread options, Circuit Playground Express

Already Part of my Studio Environment:

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Tools: Scissors, Utility Knife, Sewing Machine, Sewing needles, Knitting needles, Tape, Multiple glues: wood, fabric, instant, glue sticks + glue gun, Iron+ Ironing Board, Safety glasses and gloves

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Materials: Multiple types of fabric:  wool, cotton, non fray, stretch fabrics, Old Shoes, Yarn, Papers and cardboard, Liquid latex, Various paints, Threads, Buttons and fasteners, Heat n’Bond, Copper wire, Chip Bags, Plant matter, Plaster Bandages, Artificial and real hair, Kombucha

At other studio location to be fetched if needed:  soldering iron , wire stripper, Various types of fibreglass fabrics and resin (in other studio), Raw kombucha scobbies

3. Systems

I addressed some of the storage system in the space section, and I will continue to use this organization for  tools and materials I already have.  So I focused the idea of a prototype on the new materials that are coming into the studio. While I wanted to make a hat, I realized that I need more information and familiarity with my tools and processes over the next weeks to make a functional one.  So I went to the location of my hat inspiration to rethink the wearable studio.  I carry alot of my tools between studios in bags/purses and canvas bags.  I have one bag in particular I picture would translate into a hat very well:

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After receiving my first batch of new material today, I decided to keep the required tools and materials together in modular boxes that fit into a canvas bag.  In a class last semester I prototyped a hanger just for canvas bags.  I’ll use a large one I have for these materials, so that I can add to it and store prototypes in it over the course of the semester.  I will use my hanger prototype to keep the wearable studio bag hanging on the rack along with my wearable sculptures in progress you can see on the left side of the studio picture above.  Since I’m not planning to work outside of the studio environment (on a hike), the shoulder bag works well. 

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I have a few clear plastic modular boxes I am picking up from the farm studio later this week.  I really like the clear boxes because it makes it easy to find what you’re looking for without having to open everything up.  But I don’t like to look at stacks of clear boxes so that’s why they are going into the bag!  As the weather warms up I will be spending more time at the farm studio, and I anticipate working on prototyping up there.  The bag will make it easy to move everything that I need at once without having to gather and pack up.  I also have doubles of alot of the studio tools like thread, needles, tape, scissors, papers, wire, sewing machine, fabrics etc… up there so I won’t include this in my moveable studio bag – just the electronic parts and materials which are new for me. This bag will then be moved along with my existing travel canvas bags.

Depending on the direction my making goes, I may be spending more time outside (especially with that multimeter to test conductivity of materials around the farm) So I was inspired to photograph a light vest I use alot on camping trips and hikes because of the two front pockets.  And felt in good company when I read about Jen Liu’s fly fishing inspired designs. 


4. Methods

I anticipate employing sewing – both hand stitching and machine sewing, knitting and crochet.  I am very excited to play around with the conductive threads.

I would like to try programming and using bluetooth either to play with light or sound. Circuit building and playing around with the breadboard

I anticipate also employing some techniques for making hard shapes for hat and shoe forms – like plaster, paper mache and fibreglassing for final pieces. 

All of these methods I can employ in my current studio space.

Working from Home Wearable Studio – Sara Boback


Unfortunately, as I do not have much of a background in making, I did not have many supplies handy to use for this class. I had the usual glue gun, cartridges, scissors and tape, however many of the other supplies I’ve ordered and they are still in transit.

New supplies that have arrived today – yay – include:

  • Arduino Nano 33 IOT
  • Breadboard
  • 220 & 10K OHM
  • LED lights
  • Micro USB charger
  • Circuit Playground Express
  • Adafruit Haptic Motor Controller
  • Neopixels

Supplies that are coming in the mail

  • Micro Servo Motor
  • Alligator Wire pack
  • Alligator to Jumper Cable
  • Lithium-Ion Polymer Battery
  • Conductive thread
  • Conductive fabric
  • Electric Paint pen


I’ll be working in my usual work-at-home “office” space. It’s a room that has adequate space for me to make, and my work computer is set-up in a way that will allow me to easily move from desk to floor to do my making. The desk is standard size, and I use two screens to prioritize and do multiple things at once.

Sara's Desk Space

The work space for making will be the table as laid out. I’ve built out a make-shift board to easily hang items that I would need frequent access to. On this I’ve place scissors, glue gun, tapes and wires. I will look to add other items once they arrive, however I have not pre-planned their positions as I am having difficulty understanding the size of the objects as many are much smaller than I had anticipated.

Working area - board with items hanging (glue gun, scissors)

I’m using an old jewellery stand to host the electronics parts. On top, I’ve placed very small parts like the neopixels. At the bottom I’ve placed larger items like the breadboard, and circuit playground express.

electronics in a jewelry stand

And finally, the last major item I’m using is an old Amazon box to hold loose items like felt, push pins, etc.


As a fairly disorganized person, I need to visibly see most of my items in order to ensure they are accessible to me. I opted for a handmade movable wooden board to host all of the key day to day items, like scissors. The items hang from a screw and include the glue gun, cartridges, leather, copper tape and more. I’ve decided to include all of the small electronics into the jewelry stand to ensure that they are kept together in a safe, albeit visible location. The white Amazon box will be used to keep crafting supplies like felt, my sewing kit, and smaller trinkets. In keeping everything together (e.g. electronics in the jewelry stand) it will make it easier to move items from desk to desk. Additionally, the board in which the larger items are held can be moved from atop the desk, to the floor, or even to other rooms quite easily.



Most of my work involves the computer, and I have some background in coding. I’m hoping to extend upon my knowledge and apply it to wearable technology. To build rich experiences, coding will provide many enhancements.

Circuit Building

I’m very interested in the idea of circuit building for this course, and engaging my family in the designs. To prototype, I will look to apply circuit building techniques, and sewing as applied to wearable technology.


To build the prototype, assembly will be needed.

Research and Design

Planning, researching and designing before building will ensure that the methods have been carefully thought out and are safe to apply.


Nothing is perfect the first time usually, so testing, and multiple iterations will occur so as to create the most successful products as possible within the time constraints.


Feedback and user research is essential in determining whether a product is successful. This will be incorporated into my design practice.