Class 7

In-Class Activity

Since last week, you’ve learned about asynchronous serial communication between computers and microcontrollers. We’ll discuss, and answer any questions that came up.

  • Review from the assigned readings and labs: 
    • Asynchronous Serial Communication
    • Interpreting Serial Data: ASCII vs Binary
    • Serial between Arduino and p5.js
  • Talk about playtesting

We’ll also demonstrate and discuss these in class this week:

Assignments for next class

Read or view the following material and come to next class with questions:

Serial Review Questions – This self-graded quiz covers the material discussed in today’s class. If you’d like further review, take this quiz, then set up office hours with your instructor to see


Do the labs below. Blog your progress and questions, and come to class next week with questions. We’ll discuss together.

Project 2

Come up with a device that allows a person to control media on a personal computer using communication between a microcontroller and the personal computer using asynchronous serial communication. It’s due in week 10. Blog your idea for next week and come up with a prototype for playtesting. For some ideas on what you can make, see the Assignments page, Project 2.

Like the previous project, this shouldn’t be a highly polished device, but give it a housing of some sort. Cardboard or plastic boxes can work well for this. Some of these videos on prototyping may be helpful.

Prototype for playtesting

Come up with an initial design for your project’s user interface and develop a plan to user test your design with users.

In a playtest, you explain to groups of potential testers briefly what your project looks and sounds like. Then you ask them to act as participants and to show and tell you what they would do with the project.  It’s a way of testing your assumptions about the clarity of the interface. Next week, we’ll run these playtests on each other.

Prepare a list of questions you want to answer with this test: are the controls immediately understandable to someone who’s never used the thing before? Can they successfully operate the interface?  Can they learn the physical actions  necessary and internalize them, so that they can concentrate on what the device does, rather than her own actions?

Make a set of instructions to introduce your test, and  list of questions to ask your testers after they’ve interacted with your device or system.  Your mock-up should include as little as you need so that you can have other people perform your system. When they do, they will have questions, or will tell you what doesn’t make sense. Take note of those things and make changes to your plan accordingly.

An initial playtest may be simply an interview, but you should move pretty quickly to making cardboard prototype that you could test on other users, to see how they interact with it. This need not be a working model, but it should be the right physical form, so they can see and feel where the controls are, and can get a sense of its affordances.

Document your progress on your blog in text, video, and images as you go. Include a system diagram and a schematic drawing of the circuit.