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Intro to Physical Computing Syllabus

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A list of parts needed for the first few weeks follows. You will end up spending money on materials in this class. It can be done reasonably inexpensively, by scavenging parts, reusing parts, and so forth, but more ambitious projects inevitably make demands on your budget.

Parts needed for Intro Physical Computing

You'll need some electronics components to complete the work in this course. If you've done any electronics or microcontroller project development, you may have many of the parts already. We'll be working with the Arduino microcontroller platform, and you should be able to do the lab exercises for the course on most any Arduino-compatible microcontroller. For best results on the labs, use an Arduino Uno, Leonardo, or Micro, as that's what your instructors will be using to demonstrate with.

If you've never done any of this before, you might want to get a starter kit. Having tried and evaluated several of the starter kits for Arduino, we recommend two: the Arduino Starter Kit, or the The Adafruit ARDX kit. Both are available from adafruit. The Arduino Starter Kit is available from other distributors as well. The Adafruit kit is the best of those that include the Uno, a few electronic components. While the Adafruit kit is less expensive, the Arduino kit includes a detailed book written by Scott Fitzgerald, who teaches this class. The book contains a series of projects that help you understand not only the electronics, but also what you can do with a microcontroller.

For the in-class lab exercises, when there's a specialty module needed, like a radio or a specific microcontroller, we'll have stock on hand to lend for the class period, so you can try things out before you buy them for your own projects.

There are some electronics components available in the physical computing lab cabinet. Please don't hoard parts, so that we always have some available for everyone. We try to keep more expensive modules, like microcontroller boards and radios, available for loan as well, though there is no guarantee that these will be available right when you need them.

The NYU Computer Store carries kits to make your life easier. In it you will find enough parts to complete the basic instructions in each lab. They also carry a basic toolkit, with the minimum amount of tools you might need for the same (those tools can be handy around the house too). If you have none of your own parts or tools, purchase the basic parts kit and basic tool kit, at least.

Basic Tool Kit

You will also need some hand tools. The shop has tools you can use, but there are a few tools you should pick up for yourself. The NYU computer store carries many of these tools that do the job quite well. When you go to the bookstore to buy your kit, bring your student ID. The intro kits will be reserved for ITP students for the first few weeks of the semester.

diagonal cutter
diagonal cutter
wire stripper
wire stripper
needle-nose pliers
needle-nose pliers
digital multimeter
digital multimeter
drill bits
drill bits

If you don't want to buy a full drill bit index, you should at least pick up the following: 7/64", 1/8", 5/16", 1/4". You'll use these a lot, and to avoid other people dulling or breaking your bits, get your own. They're cheap, and it'll save you hours of aggravation.

Where Can I Get Electronic Parts in New York City?

The bad news is that this city has very few storefront outlets for electronics. If you need a last minute component, you've got three options, basically: Radio Shack (plenty of them all over town); The NYU Computer Store (around the corner on Mercer and Greene, soon moving across the street on Broadway); and 269 Electronics. Save yourself time and call any of these and ask if they have what you need before you go.

You'll end up buying most of your electronic components online, so plan shipping time into your project planning. Here are some of our regular sources:

Adafruit is based in NYC, delivers fast, and has many components and modules that work well for this class. A ground-based shipment from Adafruit will often arrive before a two-day shipment from other retailers. Their customer service on shipments is excellent, and their tutorials are quite good too.

Spark Fun has a wide range of components and modules to solve many common physical computing tech challenges. Based in Colorado, they're also pretty fast on shipping, and good with the customer service.

Seeed Studio has some really interesting components. They ship large orders free from Shenzen, China, but shipping isn't always fast that way. You can pay for expedited shipping though.

Solarbotics is good for motors and motor support components, but carries a range of other components as well.

AC Gears is a storefront around the corner from ITP that carries Arduinos, 3D printers, and the like. http://www.acgears.com/

There are many large distributors of bulk components like resistors, capacitors, transistors. They're not aimed at the hobbyist market, and their sites can seem a bit daunting at first, but they're very useful as you get to know how to shop. We use Digikey, Mouser, Jameco, and Newark frequently.

There are also surplus houses that sell overstock and discontinued items. While they don't always have the same thing in stock all the time, they're excellent sources of discount deals and hard to find items. All Electronics, Electronics Goldmine, and Herbach and Rademan are examples of these.

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