Course Description:

This physical computing and sculpture course introduces students to basic electronics and programming a microcontroller, a single-chip computer the size of a postage stamp, to read sensors or control mechanics placed in physical objects or the environment. In tandem, students learn basic metalworking and building techniques such as using a metal lathe for turning shafts and fitting precise units together for a smooth seamless action. There will also be an introduction to tapping & die, shaping metals/plastics and finishing. Assignments are designed to provide students with basic skills that can be applied to creative projects. Through readings, discussions, individual and collaborative assignments, students are expected to develop an articulate, theoretical basis for conceiving their creative projects and discussing works presented in class.

Tuesday, 2:00pm - 6:00pm


Active student participation throughout all aspects of this course will make your experience much more meaningful and is necessary for the successful completion of the assigned work. There are reading/research assignments, weekly discussions, student presentations, critiques and the production of work during this course. Students are expected to be present for all class meetings. Please email us if you must miss a class. More than 2 absences will seriously jeopardize your standing in this course.

Students will be evaluated based on the following: Participation/attitude, creative/conceptual work, technical dexterity and progress over the term.

Small Projects:

During the first half of the term there will be a series of small scale projects that are meant to familiarize students with both materials and technologies covered in class. All work is to be documented on personal websites (include photographs, schematics, influences and research.)

Final Project:

Drawing upon our readings and skills acquired, students work to create their own creative projects. Students may choose to work individually or as a group. The instructors must approve projects and all research is to be documented on personal web sites (include photographs, schematics, influences and research.)

>> Late work is not accepted! <<


All students are expected to contribute in class on a regular basis. Each student is also expected to create and maintain a personal website for this class (can be a wiki or blog.) All research, documentation (include photographs, sketches, diagrams etc), and creative work should be posted on your site for peer review and comments. Individual websites should be updated weekly and include all of your work for this course. In-class presentation materials should be located on your website.


We will discuss in class various supplies that may be needed. We will provide everyone with an Arduino microcontroller and prototyping board for use during the term.

Office hours/help:

I am available for technical help or to discuss individual projects via office hours and email. If you would like to schedule a time to meet with me, please check my calendar (link above) and email me an appropriate time that works with both our schedules. Please do not leave voice mail! I am also readily available via email and will regularly respond within a few hours.

Preston Noon is the Digital Arts Technician and has regular help hours each week. For more information, please visit the POD website.


The majority of readings will be handed out over the term.

Getting Started with Arduino, (PDF) by Massimo Banzi
Arduino Programming Notebook, (PDF) by Brian W. Evans

This schedule is a guide and will change over the course of the term, check back often.

Session 1: September 11

Introduction to the course.
What is an interactive object?
Material discussion/work: Paper

Session 2: September 18

Discussion of readings and materials assignment.
Microcontrollers: what are they? different types and levels.
Digital vs. Analog
Intro to Arduino.
Digital Input and Output.


- From The Art of Interactive Design, Software, by Chris Crawford (handout--ebook access via the library)


- First materials assignment.

Session 3: September 25

Material Marathon.


- From Getting Started with Arduino, (link above) by Massimo Banzi, pages 1-29
Intro to Electronics
You tube video on arduino set-up
Arduino guide.


- First arduino program: Blinking LED from page 30 of Getting Started with Arduino.

Session 4: October 2

Discussion of readings and materials assignment.


Norman, Design of Everyday Things ch. 1 (handout)
Memory and variables Decimal, binary, hex.
Analog input.


- Second materials assignment.

Session 5: October 9

Discussion of readings and assignment.
Materials work.


Norretranders, User Illusion, chapter 6 "The Bandwidth of Consciousness" (handout)
Analog output.


Analog output/servo program from Igoe here and also from page 35 of Arduino Programming Notebook.

Session 6: October 16

Discussion of readings and materials work.


Serial output
Serial interpretation
Serial to desktop: Into Processing
Also look to pages 43-44 page 35 of Arduino Programming Notebook.


Exercises from above.
- Materials assignment.

Session 7: October 23

Individual Meetings with John and Robert on final project ideas.


Digital output:Transistors and Relays: switching higher-current devices.
Motors and Inductance
DC motors


Exercises from above.

October 30

Plan day: NO CLASS

Session 8: November 6

Present final project ideas to class. Description of your idea on your wiki page along with sketches, photographs and technical/material research. In addition, include work that has influenced your thinking or work that relates to your ideas.
You should bring to class material experiments for your final ideas.

Session 9: November 13

Final projects update.
Materials: Metal


Find an artist whose work inspires you and post a description of the work, links to images/video and how it inspires to your wiki page.

Session 10: November 20

Ongoing Finals discussion and work.


Excerpts from Experience Design, Nathan Shedroff, New Riders 2001.

Session 11: November 27

Ongoing Finals discussion and work.



Session 12: December 4

Ongoing Finals discussion and work.



Session 13: December 11

Final projects discussion and critique.

Last class. (All work from the term must be complete and located on student web pages by the start of class.)