We use light in all aspects of our lives, yet we seldom notice it. That is by design: lighting in everyday life, well-designed, doesn’t call attention to itself. Instead it places focus on the subjects and activities which it supports.

Solid state lighting technologies and network technologies have made major changes in lighting design. They support a wide range of color rendering and control than earlier lighting technologies, an ability to change light over a wider range of time, and they can communicate with all kinds of digital systems and devices.

On the design side, this class takes a “post-pixelist” approach: rather than making images with light, we’ll use it to illuminate people and the spaces and activities in which they engage. We won’t focus on pixels or projections, but rather on casting light on the subject at hand. We’ll consider the intersection of lighting design and interaction design. We’ll analyze lighting and describe its effects, in order to design and use it more effectively.

On the technical side, you’ll learn the basics of the physics of light, its transmission and perception. We’ll talk about how the materials which we cast light on or through affect how we perceive it. We’ll talk about sources of light, both current and historical. We’ll work with computerized control systems for lighting, and we’ll design a few lighting fixtures for different purposes. You’ll get practice planning and building electronic and microcontroller-driven circuits for lighting, and you’ll learn digital communications protocols such as DMX-512, ACN, and HTTP/REST.

Assignments will cover lighting observation and decription; sensing and measurement of light; design of new lighting fixtures; and control of existing fixtures and lighting systems.

This class will be production-intensive throughout the course of the spring semester. Second-year students should consider that the assignments in this class must be done in addition to their thesis work, regardless of the topic of their thesis.

Weekly Schedule

A week-by-week breakdown of the class activities can be found on the Schedule page.


For this class, you will have a few short assignments, a few in-class workshops, and two multi-week assignments. You should blog your progress in the class and document the two projects fully as well. The assignments are detailed on the Assignment page.


You’ll need to document your class assignments on y7our own blog, and prepare a report on on the class blog as well. Here’s what’s expected:

Keep a visual log of lighting moments each week, and we’ll look at a few of these and discuss them every week. At minimum you should do one each week, but you’ll do better if you do more than that. The more you train yourself to notice lighting moments, the easier it is to describe and then reproduce them.

As with other classes at ITP, you should keep a record of your work, and you should document your production projects. An online site for them is helpful, both to you as a reference to point to, and to others as a place to learn from. Keep a blog and link it to the class site.

Always cite the sources of your code, the places you learned techniques from, and the inspirations of your ideas. This is the equivalent to citing your sources in a written paper, and copying code or techniques without attribution is plagiarism. few ideas come out of the blue, and your readers can learn a lot from the sources you learned from or were inspired by.

Resources Needed

You will need some electronic components for this class, and some software. The weekly exercises can be done with materials that you bought from Intro to Physical Computing, or that we have in shop or the equipment room for checkout. In addition, there are many parts available for checkout from the equipment room, for those who can access the floor, and I am happy to lend parts for you to try as well.

For the two larger projects, your parts needs will depend on what you plan do to. You will need to buy some parts for yourself, depending on what you build. Work with me on planning these, in order to minimize your costs. Even these projects need not be complex or expensive, if planned carefully.

Here are the parts used in the many of the exercises:

  • Arduino Nano 33 IoT (Note: we will be using the features particular to this board, such as Bluetooth, WiFi, USB, IMU, and the crypto chip on board, which the Uno and other derivatives do not have)
  • Breadboard
  • Jumper wires
  • Human input sensors: pushbuttons, potentiometers, rotary encoders, or joysticks
  • Hand tools from intro to physical computing
  • A variety of 12V and 24V lamps. This sheet details parts that students or I have found useful in past projects. There are others, these are just things we have used in the past.
  • Github account. You might find the Github desktop app useful as well.
  • node.js on your personal computer
  • Programming text editor such as Visual Studio Code
  • Arduino IDE version 1.8.16 or later (you can use the Pro IDE or the CLI if you’re feeling ambitious).

Good Habits

Do not copy and paste examples in this class. You’ll see many examples of code, circuits, and design, but when it comes time to make your own projects, start with a blank page and write or design it yourself. You’ll internalize any given toolset or library better by using it yourself rather than copying and modifying the work of others.

When you copy or learn from someone else’s code or design, cite it in your documentation and link to it. Maintaining a link to the previous work from which you learn is essential to getting better at your craft.

Build a housing for your projects. Even if it’s a cardboard box with your sensors mounted on the outside and your circuit inside, this allows us to see the interface you intended, and to consider how well we can interact with it. Getting in this habit from day one of a project will help you to think about both the users’ needs and the best controls and components for the job.

Provide feedback on both the local interaction and the network connection on the device itself. Physical devices that rely on an external app or web interface are less effective than those that can be read from their physical appearance and behavior. Even the simplest feedback, such as an LED to tell when a device is successfully connected, can change the effectiveness of a networked device significantly.


Document your class assignments and your progress on your own blog. Besides being a useful record for your portfolio, regular blog posts provide a record your process that you can look back on later to understand how you solved problems you encountered in this class. They also help me to follow your progress through the class.

Project documentation

Blog posts about your production assignments should include:

  • A short paragraph describing the project
  • Photos and video of the project in action
  • System diagram
  • Circuit diagram/Schematic
  • Links to Source code
  • Any construction drawings you made for laser cutting, CNC, etc.
  • Citation of all example code or example drawings or documentation that you learned from or used


The most important thing you can do is arrive to each class on time and be prepared to actively participate, with questions, stories of setbacks or successes you encountered in the lab, and interesting material and events related to pcomp you’ve found. Each week, you should put in adequate time to digest and then apply the material. When possible, work with your peers, whether in person or online.

Grading will be based on the following:

  • In-class participation. Come with questions and insights, do some background reading in advance of class so you’re ready to join the discussion, listen when others are presenting, give your classmates feedback: 1/3
  • Assignments. Attempt each assignment and document it, including what didn’t work, and your questions as to why or why not: 1/3
  • Documentation. Keep notes on what you do online, for yourself and others to learn from: 1/3

Showing up on time, engaging in the class discussion, turning in assignments on time, and offering support to your classmates through advice and discussion is a major part of your success in this class.

Although a considerable amount of the class material is available online, you should attend the class meetings. This class is a workshop and seminar, not a lecture class. It relies heavily on group discussion and participation in class time. We will do everything we can to accommodate students, but we need to know in advance in order to do so.

If you’re going to be late or absent, please email your instructor in advance. If you have an emergency, please let your instructor know as soon as you can.


There are a number of articles to read throughout the semester for background on the subjects we will cover. They will be linked to each week in the schedule. All will be available on the Bibliography page as well. Please come to class having read the material assigned for that week, and prepared with questions, ideas, and opinions for discussion.

Production Assignments

For production assignments, you’ll be expected to present your project in class on the day that it’s due. If you’re working in a group, all group members should be present, on-time, and should participate equally in the presentation.

Class Meetings

The class meetings for Spring 2022 will be held in person, conditions permitting. Outside-of-class-meeting activities such as office hours, project reviews, or whatever is deemed safe and appropriate, will be on the ITP floor at 370 Jay St.

ITP Code of Conduct

As with all activities at ITP and IMA, we’ll be following the ITP/IMA code of conduct. Please consider it as a guide for projects you might make or see in this class, and how we behave with respect to each other in class.

Statement of Academic Integrity

Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s work as though it were your own. More specifically, plagiarism is to present as your own: A sequence of words quoted without quotation marks from another writer or a paraphrased passage from another writer’s work or facts, ideas or images composed by someone else.

Statement of Principle

The core of the educational experience at the Tisch School of the Arts is the creation of original academic and artistic work by students for the critical review of faculty members. It is therefore of the utmost importance that students at all times provide their instructors with an accurate sense of their current abilities and knowledge in order to receive appropriate constructive criticism and advice. Any attempt to evade that essential, transparent transaction between instructor and student through plagiarism or cheating is educationally self-defeating and a grave violation of Tisch School of the Arts community standards. For all the details on plagiarism, please refer to page 10 of the Tisch School of the Arts, Policies and Procedures Handbook, which can be found online at:

Statement on Accessibility

Please feel free to make suggestions to your instructor about ways in which this class could become more accessible to you. Academic accommodations are available for students with documented disabilities. Please contact the Moses Center for Students with Disabilities at 212 998-4980 for further information.

Statement on Counseling and Wellness

Your health and safety are a priority at NYU. If you experience any health or mental health issues during this course, we encourage you to utilize the support services of the 24/7 NYU Wellness Exchange 212-443-9999. Also, all students who may require an academic accommodation due to a qualified disability, physical or mental, please register with the Moses Center 212-998-4980. Please let your instructor know if you need help connecting to these resources.