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Intro to Physical Computing Syllabus

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Introduction to Physical Computing - Summer 2008

  • Instructor: Jenny Chowdhury (jennyLC@gmail.com)
  • Class hours: Tuesday & Thursday 3:15 - 6:10 PM
  • Office Hours: Tuesday & Thursday 6:10 - 7:00 PM

Class Description

Physical Computing is an approach to learning how humans communicate through computers that starts by considering how humans express themselves physically. In this course, we take the human body as a given, and attempt to design computing applications within the limits of its expression.

To realize this goal, you'll learn how to use sensors to detect changes in energy given off by our bodies (in the form of sound, light, motion, and other forms) and feed these values into a very simple computer called a microcontrollers that will also control output of the circuit. The microcontroller used in this class is called Arduino, is much more accessible than previous microcontrollers and is intended specifically for artists and hobbyist. The core technical concepts of the class include digital, analog and serial input and output. You'll also learn how microcontrollers communicate with other computers.

Physical computing takes a hands-on approach, which means that you spend a lot of time building circuits, soldering, writing programs, building structures to hold sensors and controls, and figuring out how best to make all of these things relate to a person's expression. Students have weekly lab exercises to build skills with the microcontroller and related tools, and longer assignments in which they apply the principles from weekly labs in creative applications. Both individual work and group work is required.

Class documentation links

  1. Jane li
  2. Isidore Ramkissoon
  3. Meade Bernard
  4. Donna Cameron
  5. Paul Pontious
  6. Shirley Palma
  7. Kolya Belakovski
  8. Steve Lehburger

Class Schedule

Week 1: Basic Electronics, Intro to microcontrollers

Week 2: Analog and Digital input, memory and variables

  • Class 3 (5/27):
  • Assignment:
    • Lab: Analog in; tracking changes with variables; practical jokes
  • Reading:
    • Physical Computing chapters 6
    • Norman, Design of Everyday Things, ch. 1 (in coursepack)
    • Norman, Emotional Design, Chapter 1, "Attractive Things Work Better".
  • Class 4 (5/29):
    • Analog output: Devices that create analog motion or sound. (servo, freqout, PWM)
  • Reading:
    • Physical Computing chapter 7
  • Assignment:


Week 3: Serial Communication

  • Class 5(6/3):
  • Reading:
    • Physical Computing chapter 7
  • Class 6(6/5):
  • Assignment:
    • Midterm initial prototype
    • Lab: Serial output and Talking to Processing
  • Reading:
    • Myron Krueger, "Responsive Environments", in Packer & Jordan, Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality, ch. 12, pp. 104-120. (in coursepack)

Week 4: Movement

Week 5: Project Development, Extra Topics

  • Class 9(6/17):
  • Class 10(6/19):
    • TBA depending on class interests
    • Show final project in progress

Week 6: Present finals

  • Class 11 (6/24):
    • Workshop final projects
  • Class 12 (6/26):
    • Show final projects

Grading and Requirements

See http://itp.nyu.edu/physcomp/Intro/Grading


See http://itp.nyu.edu/physcomp/Intro/Supplies


See http://itp.nyu.edu/physcomp/Intro/Reading for suggested reading

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