Physical Computing Project

In our first two projects, we have considered code as writing, as an attempt to express ideas by way of procedures and processes. From videogames to various versions of the 10 PRINT one-liner, we have reimagined writing beyond the alphabetic. Code can be an expressive medium.

In this project, we will extend that line of thought into physical environments. By using the Arduino kits introduced during our workshop with Kevin Brock, we will design a responsive and interactive installation that asks an interactor to think differently about his or her body and about the physical space s/he is occupying. Your goal is to use the Arduino kit and a physical environment to communicate an idea. Previous projects asked you to build and study things that involve keyboard inputs and screen outputs. While a computer screen will be part of this new project, it will be coupled with the physical environment. The Arduino can accept various kinds of information (light, sound, a button push), and you will use those affordances to design a physical computing project that attempts to make us reflect on physical space and bodies.

Groups will choose some location on campus (indoors or outdoors) and make use of the physical environment to design an installation. The environment you choose is part of your installation, so you'll want to make use of it as much as possible. The choice of location will shape and constrain what you can or can't do with the project.

Like our previous projects, you will share your results in both a short paper and a presentation. Your paper will be short - a-500 word explanation that tells us what ideas you're trying to convey with your physical computing project. How are you asking an interactor to reimagine the physical space you've chosen? How are you asking that interactor to rethink how his or her body interacts with that space? These are the kinds of questions you should be answering in the 500-word paper.

In addition, your group will craft a 15-minute presentation. Presentations will need to show your project in action, either with video or images. You'll need to ask people to interact with your project, and you should document these interactions as well. You can use smart phones or any other type of equipment to document interactions. If you need access to equipment, let me know. Your presentation will need to do the following:

1) Explain the technical details of how the project works.
2) Explain the idea or ideas you're trying to convey with the project.
3) Demonstrate the project in action.
3) Discuss what you might change if given the chance to revise the project again.

As Brandee and I respond to projects, papers, and presentations, we'll be asking the following questions:


  • Does your project take full advantage of the affordances of the Arduino board?
  • Does the project successfully ask an interactor to reconsider bodies and physical space?
  • Can an interactor make sense of the project in the course of interaction, without any explanation on the part of the designers.


  • Does your paper clearly explain the idea your trying to convey with the project?
  • Is the paper free of grammatical errors and generally well written?


  • Does your presentation show your project in action? Does it show us people interacting with it?
  • Do all members of the group speak during the presentation?
  • Does your presentation incorporate visuals in a way that helps the audience?
  • Was your group prepared to answer questions about the project?
  • Is it free from grammatical errors and generally well written?