DIG3745C Sensor and Electronics-Based Art

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Instructor: Katerie Gladdys              Class Meeting Time: M +W 11:45-2:45            Classroom: FAC306            My Office: FAC301            Office Hours: W 2:45-5:00

HCI, electronics, serial, parallel, microcontrollers, soldering, programming, Arduino, memory, variables, hex,
decimal, binary, virtual, analog, performance and responsive objects, interactivity as dynamic, socially
engaged, and collaborative process that may or may not involve machines, aesthetics of digital interactive
artifacts with respect to discourses in the visual arts, communications and performance, representation,
visual language, link, rhizome, multiplicity, network, documentation, storage, performance, schematics,
meters, components, input, output, memory, variables, serial communication, motors
(in no particular order and this list is subject to change)

Course Description
Physical computing/HCI (Human Computer Interaction) explores how devices respond to and interact with
human physical action. In this class, students will create artwork that explores physical interfaces beyond
mouse/keyboard/screen interactions through the use of microcontrollers and sensors. This course
introduces students to basic electronics, microcontrollers and sensors. We will examine what works in terms
of the conceptual content as well as how it works technically. Through readings, discussions, practical
exercises, individual and collaborative projects, students will develop an articulate, theoretical basis for
conceptualizing and discussing works presented in class as well as their own creative projects. Emphasis
will be placed on the ways that the technology and interactivity relate to the content of the work.
Physical computing takes a hands-on approach, which means that you spend a lot of time building circuits,
soldering, writing programs, building structures to hold sensors and controls, and figuring out how best to
make all of these things relate to a person's expression.

Students will demonstrate understanding of the following principles and techniques through studio

• Explore recent and current trends in digital arts and experimental media research

• Learn techniques of basic electronics

• Create art work that that explores interactions between humans and processes such as motion,
mapping, sound, position, gesture recognition

• Learn to solder and wire

• Demonstrate skills in basic programming with Arduino and Processing to facilitate the
interface between humans, objects, and sensors

• Integrate tools and concepts from science & technology into art making

• Articulate theoretical perspectives relevant to cultural experimentation with embodiment, physical
computing, motion detection, gesture recognition, activated objects and alternative interfaces.advances


Course Structure



required texts

Getting Started with Arduino. Massimo Banzi. O'Reilly Media, 2008 ISBN 10: 0-596-15551-4 | ISBN 13: 9780596155513

Making Things Talk: Practical Methods for Connecting Physical Objects. Tom Igoe. Make Books, 2007.

The Design of Everyday Things, Donald A. Norman ©1990 Doubleday Books; ISBN: 0385267746

recommended texts

Physical Computing: Sensing and Controlling the Physical World with Computers. Tom Igoe and Dan
O'Sullivan. Course Technology PTR, 2004.)

Getting Started in Electronics. Forrest M. Mims III, ©1983, Forrest M. Mims III

The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size, Tor Nørretranders ©1998 Viking Press; ISBN:

access to software

Arduino, Max MSP, Processing

equipment and supplies

You will need to purchase electronic components to work through the technical exercises required by this
class as well as for your projects.

For this class you are required to purchase an Arduino Duemilanove microcontroller. If you already have another version of the microcontroller, that is fine just use that one.

There are a number of routes that you can take. At Adafruit Industries, they have three kits that come with components. These are the the Arduino Experimentation Kit OR the Arduino Starter Pack OR Arduino Buget pack OR you can just buy the microcontroller plain. If you just buy the microcontroller you will have to also purchase the supplies for making a protoshield and a USB cable. I would probably go with the starter pack.


You can also purchase Arduino microcontrollers and components at Sparkfun Electronics and Makers Shed.



Many of these items are supplied as part of your lab fees in the form of a “kit”. A kit includes the following
5V voltage regulator, 3.3V voltage regulator, LEDs, solderless breadboard, resistors, potentiometer, trimmer
potentiometers, momentary switches, toggle switches, ceramic capacitors, electrolytic capacitors, thermistor,
photocell, 1N4001 diodes, zenner diodes, transistors, DC power jack, photocell, AA battery holder, 9V
battery snap, servo motor, dc motor, gearbox kit, H bridge, reed relay, screw terminals.

Kits as well as other components are located in the Electronics Studio next to Jack Stenner's office

If you create a project which uses other types of sensors, you can to purchase them from the vendors listed on the resource page.

Giving Credit--Many of the ideas and resources for this class came from Tom Igoe's Physical Computing Class at NYU's ITP program http://itp.nyu.edu/physcomp/ and Fernando Orella's cached version of Physical Computing class at Union College.

Grades and Evaluation

The purpose of grading is to clearly and accurately pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of your progress. You will receive grades on all assignments and receive a progress report and meet with me individually at midterm. This report will evaluate progress, note strengths and areas for improvement. Your overall grade will be based on your understanding of the information and ideas discussed, and your formal, technical, and conceptual progress as demonstrated in projects and exercises, and professionalism during the course.
Students will be evaluated through exercises, participation, research, presentations, and technical proficiency with the various software applications, their aesthetic application, and problem solving.

Grading Scale

A    100–90: superior work, all criteria have been surpassed in a distinguished manner
B+  89-86: very good work, all criteria have been surpassed
B    85-80: above average work
C+  79-76: adequate, average work
C    75-70D+  69-66: barely meeting criteria
D    65-60
E    59–0: failure to meet criteria
Work that is late will be graded one letter grade down for each day after the deadline of the assignment.

Distribution of Grades

Projects Total 60% = Midterm group project 25% + Final Project 35%

40% class participation (attendance, participation in class discussions, reading responses, asking/answering questions, teamwork, coming to class with all materials, general preparation, and proper classroom etiquette), in-class experiments, assignments, homework, quizzes, and exercises

Attendence + Participation
This class is very experiential and experimental in nature. We will do a lot of in class activities for which you will get credit. Many of these activites can not be "made up" outside of class. You will miss out on a great deal if you do not come. There is a correlation in studio classes between attendance and final grades. You have a better chance of doing well if you come to class. Only three (3) unexcused absences will be allowed. Every unexcused absence beyond this will lower your grade by a letter grade. A total of seven absences, excused or unexcused, will result in a grade of “E” for the class. Excused absences include religious holidays, a verifiable death in the immediate family or with a doctor’s note.

What constitutes participation?
  • contribution to class discussions
  • asking relevant questions
  • thoughtful responses
  • consideration for classmates
  • attendance
  • positive attitude and open mind
expectations for class participation

Participation by all members is critical to the success of this class. Excellent participation is a given and includes contributing to ongoing discussions and critiques, suggests alternative ways
of approaching projects, along with a thoughtful process and strong work ethic. Participation is evaluated with respect to both quality and quantity.

lateness and leaving early

I will take attendance at the beginning of each class. If you are not present at that time, you will be marked as absent unless you see me at the end of class letting me know that you came so I can correct my attendance sheet. You are expected to stay for the entire class period. I generally check to see who is around after the break. If you leave, your attendance will be recorded as late. Three late marks count as an unexcused absence. If you know that you will be late or absent, please let me know in advance by contacting me at kgladdys@ufl.edu. Both lateness and absence will also have an effect on your participation grade.

late assignments

The four major projects for this class need to be completed on time. If you turn a project after the deadline, 10% will be deducted for each day the project is late. Assignments that are 10 points or less may not be made up unless you have an excused absence or have contacted me in advance. If you arrive late and miss the better part of an in class assignment, you are welcome to do the assignment on your own time, but I will not give credit for it. It is not fair to the students who were on time.

keeping up

If you are having difficulties for any reason in understanding the material and completing the work for this class, you need to make an appointment to meet and talk with me.  Do not wait until the last minute (right before an assignment is due) or until you are totally lost to contact me.

food and drink

This class is held in the lab so their is no food and drink.


I want this class to be fun and meaningful with everybody feeling comfortable to contribute to the dialogue. This is how we learn. Effective learning/teaching is a creative and co-constructed experience with give and take between teacher and student and between student and student. Key to facilitating an environment for learning is respect. Disruptive and disrepective behavior make for stressful atmosphere which is not conducive to learning. Please observe the following class policies.

What you can expect from me

general university policies and services


This resource covers most policies and procedures important to students - http://www.dso.ufl.edu/stg/

accommodations for students with disabilities

Students requesting classroom accommodation must first register with the Dean of Students Office. The Dean of Students Office will provide documentation to the student who must then provide this documentation to the Instructor when requesting accommodation. Disability Office -– http://www.dso.ufl.edu/OSD/

contacts for university counseling services

Includes personal, academic, crisis and career services. Dial 392-1575.


contacts for student healthcare center

Dial 911 for medical emergencies.

Dial 392-1161 for urgent after-hours medical questions.

Dial 392-1171 for after-hours mental health assistance.


safety and security

University Police Department - http://police.ufl.edu/

Dial 911 for emergencies.

Dial 392-1111 otherwise.

reading days

The two days prior to the start of examinations in the fall and spring semesters, generally a Thursday and Friday, are designated reading days. No classes or exams are held on these days. Instead, students are encouraged to use these days for study and review.

twelve-day rule

Students who participate in official athletic or scholastic, extracurricular activities are permitted twelve (12) scholastic day  absences per semester without penalty. In any case, it is the student’s responsibility to maintain satisfactory academic  performance and attendance.

absences for religious holidays

Students, upon prior notification of their instructions, shall be excused from class or other scheduled academic activity to observe a religious holy day of their faith. Students shall be permitted a reasonable amount of time to make up the material or activities covered in their absence. A student who believes that he/she has been unreasonably denied an education benefit due to religious beliefs or  practices may seek redress through the student grievance procedure.

honesty policy

An academic honesty offense is defined as the act of lying, cheating or stealing academic information so that one gains academic advantage. As a University of Florida student, one is expected to neither commit nor assist another in committing an academic honesty  violation. Additionally, it is the student’s duty to report observed academic honesty violations. These can include: cheating, plagiarism, bribery, misrepresentation, conspiracy, or fabrication.


computer use and acceptable use policy

All faculty, staff, and students of the University of Florida are required and expected to obey the laws and legal agreements governing software use. Failure to do so can lead to monetary damages and/or criminal penalties for the individual violator. Because such violations are also against University policies and rules, disciplinary action will be taken as appropriate.



disruptive behavior   

Faculty, students, Administrative and Professional staff members, and other employees [hereinafter referred to as “member(s)” of the University], who intentionally act to impair, interfere with, or obstruct the mission, purposes, order, operations, processes, and functions of the University shall be subject to appropriate disciplinary action by University authorities for misconduct, as set forth in the applicable rules of the Board of Regents and the University and state law governing such actions. A detailed list of disruptive conduct may be found at http://www.aa.ufl.edu/aa/Rules/1008.htm

Be advised that you can and will be dismissed from class if you engage in disruptive behavior.

Critical Dates on the University Calendar


It is your responsibility to check the class website in a regular basis.  Generally, I announce any changes to the syllabus in class.