We are developing quilt design generation software for Code Crafters workshops, which aim to broaden public awareness of computational thinking and build links between computer science and quilting. The software generates quilt designs, which will be manipulated and modified by workshop participants. Due to COVID, our workshops will be conducted remotely, so the software has been designed to increase the sense of community by providing opportunities for the types of social interactions that take place in colocated quilting workshops.
There are many identified similarities between quilting and Computer Science (CS), including the usage of repetitive patterns and geometric collages. This metaphor has been used in teaching CS in K12 classrooms, creating playable experiences that bridge quilting and computing, and developing software for e-textiles activities. Traditional textile crafts show promise in bridging an interest gap between crafts and CS education; a gap between what is often seen as a traditionally feminine field and a traditionally masculine one. Given the urgent need for greater public understanding of computer science in a society increasingly dependent upon computational technologies, and the strength of this metaphor between CS and quilting in K12 education, we are exploring how this metaphor extends to people who are already skilled craftspeople. We are interested in understanding how quilters’ previous education and interests in quilting and computer science compare, and in how quilters’ perceptions of the relationships between these two disparate areas affect their interest and motivations to learn more about computer science. We conducted a survey with ~600 quilters and led a follow-on small focus group to study their perceptions and experiences related to both fields. Based our findings from the survey and focus group, we have designed generative quilt design software and accompanying workshops that aim to broaden understanding of fundamental CS concepts and principles among quilters: 1) computer programming can be used for creative expression; 2) computer science and quilting share a social, collaborative context; 3) programmers must build algorithms that may behave differently than human users expect; 4) algorithms operate on data that is made by humans. We plan to conduct our first workshops remotely (via Zoom) this summer.