Syllabus Spring 2021

In this studio, our goal is to review the state of practice in tangible interaction design, and report on the patterns we see, and summarize best practices. We’ll also produce practical tutorials for use in building tangible interfaces. This class is not a lecture or demonstration class, it is a group research effort between all of us. It relies heavily on group research and discussion. The structure of the course will be looser than a normal production class, and you will be expected to keep up with your research independently and communicate with your instructor weekly on your progress.

Weekly Schedule

A 14-week breakdown of the class activities can be found in this spreadsheet. It may change as we develop our plans, so check it regularly.


Your work will include two multi-week research reviews, one multi-week production experiment and tutorial, and a duplication and review of someone else’s tutorial. In addition, we’ll keep collective notes and a glossary of terms we consider relevant. The details can be found on the Assignments Page.

The research reviews will involve reading through the literature from several academic or industry conferences, industry standards, or books and preparing summary reports for the class. The goal of these is to summarize trends in industry or academic practice in tangible interaction over several years. In some cases, we may decide that a more formal report would be useful to post publicly on the class site.

The production experiment and tutorial will be a detailed test and report of a tangible interface component. It will be similar to the sensor reports from past classes, but in more depth. You’ll also be expected to read another student’s production work and duplicate it, offering them notes on how to improve their report.

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 for Intro to Physical Computing. 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 production experiment and tutorial, your parts needs will depend on what you plan do to. The goal of this project is to leave both a web-based record of your work and physical components from which future students can learn. You’ll propose a particular component or set of components to work on, and I’ll work with you all to make sure the proposals are thorough and feasible. Once we have a full set of workable proposals, I’ll work with the department to obtain parts for the experiments. The parts will remain with the department for checkout by other students in future semesters. If you want to keep your components after the class, you’ll need to obtain duplicates for yourself.

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 your sources. Note 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. In the production experiment, this will consist of a panel mount and standoffs which we can mount on the wall at ITP. 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 the interaction. Interaction requires a response from any input.


We’ll keep extensive notes on our reading and research in this class, and share it with each other. There are a few tools that will work well for this:

  • Zotero is an application for collecting, organizing, sharing, and citing research. We’ll go over it in the first two weeks, and there is an NYU Library introduction to Zotero which you should review as well. There are some mobile device third-party apps for it as well.
  • The NYU library has an extensive digital and physical collection, and provides access to most of the major research databases. We’ll have a guest to introduce the library resources. To get the most out of it, you need to use the NYU VPN when you are not on campus, as many library resources are accessible within the University network only.
  • The ACM Digital Library (NYU libraries link, this is only accessible from the NYU network) is an extensive archive of the Association for Computing Machinery, which hosts some of the major conferences in computing.
  • We will use Google Drive and the Google apps suite to share documents as well. This folder is open to anyone within NYU.


Grading will be based on the following:

  • In-class participation. Come with questions and insights, do the 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. The assignments for this course are less detailed than most, requiring you to ask questions, come up with a research plan, and present your findings. Good communication with your instructor all the way through the process is essential to your success: 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.

Class Meetings

The class meetings for Spring 2021 will be held over teleconference, at the scheduled class times. When conditions allow, I will hold office hours both in person and through Zoom. If and when it is safe and possible to meet with me in person, do not hesitate to do so. Attending in-person sessions will be completely optional, however. Come only if you feel comfortable and safe about it.

Please be present and active for all classes in which you have a presentation to make. There may be weeks in which you are not presenting. You won’t have to be present in class those weeks, as long as you check with me in advance and update me on your progress weekly. You are, of course, welcome to attend all weeks.

As long as your physical environment and internet bandwidth allow you to, join the online class meetings on-time and participate actively. Class goes best if you join the conversation with respect and consideration for your classmates, and ask questions verbally or in chat during the class. Edutopia has a set of hand signals which can be useful in class as well, which classes can adopt. If you can’t join class meetings in this way, please let your instructor know in advance so we can plan accordingly. I will do everything I can to accommodate your situation when I know in advance what it is.

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.

Reading and Research

You will be reading a significant amount in this class. Please keep up with your reading regularly, and come to class prepared with summaries, questions, ideas, and opinions for discussion. Don’t do it all last-minute. Resources for this can be found on the Assignments page and the Bibliography, and will be shared in class.

Production Assignments

You have two multi-week production assignment, which you will work on individually. You may need to review labs and exercises from other classes, particularly those from Intro to Physical Computing, as background for your work.

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.