Prerequisites: DA2101 Introduction to Digital Arts or permission of the instructor.
Credits: 4
Time: T 10:10 - 12noon, T 2:10 - 4pm

Course Description:

This course aims to extend our notions of the creative potential of computers by exploring uses beyond standard mouse/keyboard/screen interaction. Moving away from these restrictions the course introduces students to basic electronics and programming a microcontroller, a single-chip computer the size of a postage stamp, to read sensors placed in physical objects or the environment. Projects are designed to provide students with basic skills that can be applied to individual creative projects. Through readings, discussions, design of individual and collaborative projects, students are expected to develop an articulate, theoretical basis for conceptualizing and discussing works presented in class as well as their own creative projects. Students are required to keep personal websites for this class and need to possess the skills necessary to do this.


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.

Labs/Small Assignments/Midterm:

During the first half of the term there will be a series of lab assignments 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.)

The midterm is a small scale project that will be created in collaborative teams of two. Less is more. Create a small interactive project that includes minimally one input and one output (not to exceed 3) on the arduino. You may use any sensors of your choosing and any method of output. No desktop or laptop computer may be used in the final iteration of your ideas.

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 wiki site at wiki.bennnington.edu. 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

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

Session 1: September 9

Introduction to the course.
What is physical computing?
Digital vs. Analog

Session 2: September 16

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


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


- Find an interactive fine art project that inspires you, post a description of the project and why it interests you to your wiki page. Be sure to include links and images if relevant.

Session 3: September 23

Review the readings and first programs.


- From Getting Started with Arduino, (link above) by Massimo Banzi, pages 1-19
Intro to Electronics
Arduino guide.


- Arduino programs Getting Started with Arduino:
Blinking LED, page 15
Pushbutton, page 19

Session 4: September 30

Review the readings and light sensor program. Team meetings with Robert


Norman, Design of Everyday Things ch. 1 (handout)
- From Getting Started with Arduino, (link above) by Massimo Banzi, pages 20-32
Memory and variables Decimal, binary, hex.
Analog input.


- Arduino programs Getting Started with Arduino:
Light sensor, page 22

Session 5: October 7

Discussion of readings and assignment.
Wood shop demo.
Midterm discussion/work.


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


Analog output/servo program from Igoe here.

Session 6: October 14


Midterm: Less is more
Teams of two. Create a small interactive project that includes one input and one output (not to exceed 3 of either) on the arduino. You may use any sensors of your choosing and any method of output. No desktop or laptop computer may be used in the final iteration of the project.

Session 7: October 21

Discussion of readings.


Serial communication
Serial interpretation
Serial to desktop: Into Processing


Serial out from Igoe here.

October 28

Plan day: NO CLASS

Session 8: November 4

Individual Meetings with Robert on final project ideas.
Demo with Preston, high current devices.


Digital output:Transistors and Relays: switching higher-current devices.
Motors and Inductance
DC motors
Handout from Responsive Environments by Lucy Bullivant


Exercises from above.
All wikis updated with final project descriptions, sketches, links to research and influences, etc.

Session 9: November 11

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.

Session 10: November 18

Final projects update.


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 11: November 25

Ongoing Finals discussion and work.

Session 12: December 2

Ongoing Finals discussion and work.


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

Session 13: December 9

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.)