Physical Computing & Accessibility / f2015

COM 473: Physical Computing & Accessibility
Syllabus, Assignments, & Schedule
Fall 2015

Contact Information
Dr. Steven Hammer
301 Bronstein Hall
to make an appointment, click HERE


Course Description
Physical computing grants us the ability to rethink the ways we interact with both digtial systems and the physical world. In this course, students will first learn the basics of Arduino micro-controller hardware and programming in the context of music and sound-based art. Then, collaborating with persons with disabilities in Philadelphia, students will co-create Arduino-based instruments, apply and expand upon their knowledge of disability and accessibility, and assist in organizing a community performance event. No previous experience with physical computing or music is necessary to take this course, only interest and committment to working in a diverse collaborative environment.

 In this course, we will be collaborating with artists in CenterCity at Independence Edge Studio. As such, expect to spend time outside of normal class time with your collaborator(s) and travel to the studio during the second half of the semester. About halfway through the semester, our class schedule will change to a once-per-week class. We will negotiate this time (or times, if necessary) as a group. Further, remember that this course is highly collaborative; you will work with classmates, artists, a studio, and with an event coordinator. This requires that you communicate in a professional/timely manner, respect others’ time and energy, and at times, work around others’ schedules.


University Policies

Academic Honesty: Please familiarize yourself with the University’s Academic Honesty Policy.

Disability Support: In accordance with state and federal laws, the University will make reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities. For those who have or think that you may have a disability requiring an accommodation (learning, physical, psychological) should contact Services for Students with Disabilities, Room G10, Bellarmine, 610-660-1774 (voice) or 610-660-1620 (TTY) as early as possible in the semester for additional information and so that an accommodation, if appropriate, can be made in a timely manner. You will be required to provide current (within 3 years) documentation of the disability.
For a more detailed explanation of the University’s accommodation process, as well as the programs and services offered to students with disabilities, please see the Student Resources Page. If you have any difficulty accessing the information on-line, please contact Services for Students with Disabilities at the telephone numbers above.
If you have any questions or concerns about the syllabus, assignments, or content throughout the semester, please feel free to contact me.


Required Materials
Arduino Hardware, Sensors (these are provided)
Arduino Software

Arduino Experimenter’s Guide (1)
Getting Started with Arduino, 2nd Ed. (1)
Arduino Programming Notebook (1)
McAllister, Yuen, & Bush & Project Blog (2)
Francis, P, S Balbo, and L Firth. “Towards Co-Design With Users Who Have Autism Spectrum Disorders.” Universal Access In The Information Society 8.3 (n.d.): 123-135. Science Citation Index. Web. 17 Aug. 2015. (2)
Sanders & Stappers (2)
Yergeau, et al. (2)
Menkman (2)


Course Requirements

Participation && Attendance: 10%
Come to class. You are allowed two “free” absences without penalty. Thereafter, you will lose this 10% of your final grade. If you miss 6 or more classes, you will not pass the course.
You will also be evaluated on your ability to work well with various collaborators throughout the semester.

Major Projects
click here for assignment descriptions & Grading criteria

∆ one: Physical computing, instrument (re)design (20%)
You will learn the basics of physical computing, make a few projects, then learn specifically about audio/musical applications and instruments. For your first project of the course, you will each redesign (and document!!) an existing Arduino-based instrument with available materials, making changes to both the hardware and code of the original design. You will then give a brief explanation and demonstration of your instrument to the class, and perform either solo or with collaborators in class.

∆ two: accessibility, disability, co-design (20%)
You will read about disability, accessibility, and co-design to inform your own participation in the major project of this course. For the second unit of this course, we will co-construct a project website to compile resources, projects, media, critical and reflective essays, and space to document our major project.

∆ three: co-design & performance project (50%)
You will collaborate with co-designers at Independence Edge to design, build, test, and revise Arduino-based instruments. You will plan and participate in a performance event with your collaborators, co-create content for our project website, and document the event. Details (dates/times/locations) to be announced.


Grading & Deadlines

*Deadlines must be met in order to receive credit for your work.
A-: 90-100% -exceeds basic assignment criteria in several ways.
B: 80-89% -meets and exceeds basic assignment criteria
C: 70-79% -meets basic assignment criteria
D: 60-69% -fails to meet one or more basic assignment criteria.
F: 0-59% -incomplete, not received, or fails to meet any basic assignment criteria.



This is a tentative schedule. Changes will be announced in class.
Reading/watching/listening assignments must be completed prior to class each week.

Discuss scheduling
Whatis: Physical Computing
Opening kits, getting started

Introductory Projects

Week3 (Meet in Bronstein Hall, first floor)
Beyond basics, Making music
Theremins 1 2 3, Synthesizers 1 2 3, Musical Instrument Shield

Week4 (Meet in Bronstein Hall, first floor)
Musical Instruments, cont.
Research & choose your first project base

Week5 (Meet in Bronstein Hall, first floor)

Week6 (Meet in Bronstein Hall, first floor)


Project two introduction
Introduction to disabilityStudies, accessibility, co-design
Unit 2 Readings (see above)

(no class on Monday)
Compose contracts on GDoc
Begin website design/content production

Studio: finish design/content production
Introduce project three








Finish/fine tune projects

Week17-Finals Week