Lab Assignments

Technical material will be demonstrated in class. Each week your instructor will explain a given topic, and demonstrate it by building circuits, code or fabrication techniques in class. You’ll follow along, stopping to ask questions or clarify what’s happening as we go. Then you’ll go home and try it yourself.

Once you’ve done a lab, make a project with the new techniques you learned.  It doesn’t need to be large or complex, just something simple that shows what you learned and how it can be used in everyday life. We’ll look at a few of these in each class. You’ll be expected to show at least one finished lab project in the first half of the semester in class. Your instructor will pick the lab presenters at random each week. If you make something and aren’t called upon in class, write it up on your blog, with pictures and video as appropriate.

Midterm Project

The goal of this assignment is to show that you can make a simple interactive system with physical controls, and that you can keep a user engaged with your system.

This year, the midterm project will have a Halloween theme. You should make a device or experience for a Halloween party. You could make a media controller that controls spooky projections, or a music player that controls the sound in a haunted house, or a tangible interface for things that go bump in the night.  You could also make a musical instrument that makes spooky music like you’d hear in a horror film. If you have another idea, discuss it with your instructor to see if it’s appropriate.

Work in pairs on this assignment. Your instructor will assign the pairs.

On a technical level, your project should show that you understand digital input and output, analog input and output, serial communication, and good physical interaction design principles. On a conceptual level, your project should help people to enjoy a Halloween party, with just enough surprises to make it fun, with no chance for injury or psychic trauma.

Consider the  behavior of the thing that the user will see, hear, or feel, and choose sensors that let you create that kind of behavior. For example, if your system featured a bouncing ball that moved with a “squishy” feeling, make sure the physical control has a similar feel. You might get this by embedding force sensors in foam, or attaching pressure sensors to a balloon. If your animation has a sharp feeling to it, you might need sensors that have a precise, sharp feel, such as pushbuttons with a good solid “click”.

If there is more than one parameter to be controlled, you will need to send data from multiple sensors to control each parameter. For example, if you’re controlling an object that moves in three dimensions on the screen, you’ll need sensors that give you control over all three dimensions. You might use a 3-axis accelerometer, or three photosensors, or some other combination.

If you or your partner on this exercise are waiving Intro to Computational Media, that means you’re good enough programmers to create this project in a desktop programming environment on your own. Good for you! You’ll be expected to show your ability to do this.

Final Assignment

Create a physically interactive system of your choice. Your assignment should demonstrate clear and engaging physical interaction. Focus on sensing of the relevant actions of the person that you’re designing this for, and on clear, prompt, and effective response. Any interactive system involves listening, thinking, and speaking from both parties.

The interaction should be iterative (according to Chris Crawford’s definition). Don’t just make a system where the user takes one action, the system responds, and it’s over. Make a system where the user sees the system’s response, and takes more action in response, in a continued loop.

This will be due in the final week of class, but you will show progress on the project in each week from week 9 onward. Work in groups or alone.

Document your work thoroughly online as you go. Include details of all phases of the project. Include a project summary as well, explaining what the system you built is, what it does, and what purpose it’s intended to serve. Your summary should introduce the project.

Originally written on August 17, 2018 by Tom Igoe
Last modified on September 27, 2018 by Jim Schmitz