Spring 2014
Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor.
Credits: 4
Time: Tuesday 2:10 – 6:00pm

Course Description:
This course aims to extend our notions of the creative fine art potential of computers by exploring uses beyond standard mouse/keyboard/screen interaction. Moving away from these restrictions the course introduces students to basic electronics and programming a microcontroller, a single-chip computer the size of a postage stamp, to read sensors placed in physical objects or the environment. Projects are designed to provide students with basic skills that can be applied to individual creative projects. Through readings, discussions, design of individual and collaborative projects, students are expected to develop an articulate, theoretical basis for conceptualizing and discussing works presented in class as well as their own creative projects.

Active student participation throughout all aspects of this course will make your experience much more meaningful and is necessary for the successful completion of the assigned work. There are reading/research assignments, weekly discussions, student presentations, critiques and the production of work during this course. Students are expected to be present for all class meetings. Please email us if you must miss a class. More than 2 absences will seriously jeopardize your standing in this course.

Students will be evaluated based on the following: Participation/attitude, creative/conceptual work, technical dexterity and progress over the term.

I would like you to commit to the following this semester:

  1. That you will be respectful of both your peers and my time and efforts with your own: that you will work your hardest, be self-motivated, learn through trial and failure and share what you learn and/or know freely with all.
  2. Push yourself beyond the bounds of your comfort zone and be brave, adventurous and surprising.

Labs/Small Assignments/Midterm:
During the first half of the term there will be a series of lab assignments that are meant to familiarize students with both materials and technologies covered in class. All work is to be documented on student wiki pages (include photographs, schematics, influences and research.)

The midterm is a small scale project that will be created in collaborative teams of two. Less is more. Each member of the team will create a small interactive project that includes at least one input and one output (not to exceed 3) on the arduino. While the individual pieces are discreet, they must relate to the other team members piece — either conceptually or literally. You may use any sensors of your choosing and any method of output. No desktop or laptop computer may be used in the final iteration of your ideas.

Final Project:
Drawing upon our readings and skills acquired, students work to create their own creative projects. Students may choose to work individually or as a group. The instructor must approve projects and all research is to be documented on personal web sites–this must include photographs, schematics, influences and research.

>> Late work is not accepted! <<

Research/wiki pages:
All students are expected to contribute in class on a regular basis. Each student is also expected to create and maintain a personal wiki site (link above). All research, documentation (include photographs, sketches, diagrams etc), and creative work should be posted on your site for peer review and comments. Individual wiki pages should be updated weekly and include all of your work for this course. In-class presentation materials are to be located on your wiki.

We will discuss in class various supplies that may be needed. We will provide everyone with an Arduino microcontroller, prototyping board and other basic supplies for use during the term.

Office hours/help:
I am available for technical help or to discuss individual projects via office hours and email. If you would like to schedule a time to meet with me, please email and we’ll set up a time. Please do not leave voice mail! I am also readily available via other platforms, if necessary.

Chris Chenier is the Digital Arts Technician and has regular help hours each week. For more information, please visit the POD website.

The majority of readings will be handed out over the term.

Required book:
Getting Started with Arduino [Amazon], by Massimo Banzi
PDF from VAPAX server.

Supplemental Arduino Reading
Jody Culkin Arduino Comic.

This schedule is a guide and will change over the course of the term, check back often.

Session 1: February 18
Introduction to the course.
What is physical computing?
Digital vs. Analog

Session 2: February 25
Discussion of readings.

Microcontrollers: what are they? different types and levels.
Intro to Arduino Nano.
Digital Input and Output.
– From The Art of Interactive Design, Software, by Chris Crawford (handout–ebook access via the library)
– Find an interactive fine art project that inspires you, post a description of the project and why it interests you to your wiki page. Be sure to include links and images if relevant.

Session 3: March 4
Review the readings and first programs.
– From Getting Started with Arduino, by Massimo Banzi, pages 1-49
Intro to Electronics
Arduino guide.
– Arduino program Getting Started with Arduino: Blinking LED, page 30 and pushbutton pages 42, 45, 47 and 49.

Session 4: March 11
Review the readings and light sensor program.
Team meetings with Robert
Norman, Design of Everyday Things ch. 1 (handout)
– From Getting Started with Arduino, by Massimo Banzi, pages 51-69

Memory and variables Decimal, binary, hex.
Analog input.
– Arduino programs Getting Started with Arduino:

All programs from the reading: Light with PWM page 57 and 59, Light sensor page 64 and 65. Serial monitor page 67.

Session 5: March 18
Discussion of readings and assignment.
Midterm discussion/work.
Norretranders, User Illusion, chapter 6 “The Bandwidth of Consciousness” (handout)
Analog output.
Analog output/servo program from Igoe here.
Also, Servo Library, “sweep” example.

Session 6: March 25
Midterm: Less is more

Teams of two. Create a small interactive project that includes one input and one output (not to exceed 3 of either) on the arduino. You may use any sensors of your choosing and any method of output. No desktop or laptop computer may be used in the final iteration of the project.

Session 7: April 1
Discussion of readings.
Serial interpretation
Serial to desktop: Into Processing
Serial out from Igoe here.

Session 8: April 8
Individual Meetings with Robert on final project ideas.
Demo high current devices.
Motors and Inductance
Higher-current devices.
DC motors
DC motor and transistor from Igoe here.
DC motor and H-Bridge from Igoe here.

All wikis updated with final project descriptions, sketches, links to research and influences, etc.

Session 9: April 15
Present final project ideas to class. Description of your idea on your wiki page along with sketches, photographs and technical/material research. In addition, include work that has influenced your thinking or work that relates to your ideas.

Session 10: April 22
Final projects update.
Find an artist whose work inspires you and post a description of the work, links to images/video and how it inspires to your wiki page.

Wikipage update to include timeline/schedule for final project implementation. This should be detailed!

Session 11: April 29
Ongoing Finals discussion and work.


Session 12: May 13
Ongoing Finals discussion and work.

Session 13: May 20
Finals working session.

Session 14: May 27
Final projects discussion and critique.

Last class. (All work from the term must be complete and located on student web pages by the start of class.)