IxD Physical Computing 🕹 Fall 2023

Syllabus for SVA MFA Interaction Design first year course, The Fundamentals of Physical Computing

Tuesdays 02:00 PM - 04:50 PM, Visible Futures Lab (7th Floor)

Class schedule including session outlines, slides, readings and assignments.


Viola He (website): / Office Hours 💼 Mon 3-6 PM, schedule here

Daniel Ryan Johnston (website): / Office Hours 💼 Tue 5-7 PM, schedule here

Class Description

This course is a practical, hands-on exploration of physical interaction for designers. Students will examine how to interface objects and installations with the viewer’s body and ambient stimuli, such as motion, light, sound and intangible data. Using the open-source Arduino platform, the class will move through electrical theory, circuit design, microcontroller programming and sensors, as well as more advanced output, including motors, video and intercommunication between objects. No previous programming or electronics experience is required.

Class Expectation

Attendance: Participation in group discussions and collaborative assignments during workshop sections are an important part of the course. More than two unexcused absences and you risk failing the course. If you need to be absent for any reason, please give the instructors at least 24 hours of advanced notice on Slack or via email.

Assignments: Each week you’re expected to review and practice materials in lab assignments, complete project assignments, and document your progress and questions in your Physical Computing blog. There will be two group projects for midterm and final, which you will show on Week 7 and Week 14.

Documentation: Blog posts are due 23:59, Monday before each class. A good blog post should include ideation, design, circuit diagram/schematic, photos and videos of your process, and a showcase of the final result. Here’re a couple of example blogs from past students for inspiration: Young Kim (Notion), Awanee Joshi (Medium), Jueun Jeon (page in personal website)

Evaluation Criteria

Grading will be based primarily on effort and quality of assigned work (60%), research and practice outside of class (20%), and involvement in discussions and critiques (20%).

Required Materials

Essential materials will be provided in a kit, which will be billed as a Course Materials Fee. Students have the option of buying additional materials to fulfill their project objectives. Some tools and consumable supplies will be available in the VFL (7th Floor) and in IxD’s studio.

More information available in the parts and tools page (Updating).

Readings and resources are shared here.

Technical - selections from:

Design - selections from:


Weekly schedule will be updated here


VFL Access

Our class takes place at the Visible Futures Lab (VFL), a facility open to faculty and staff of SVA and all students of SVA graduate programs. Access to the VFL machines outside of the makerspace requires training and certification. Training sessions are offered for the wood shop, Shopbot (CNC gantry router), laser cutters and 3D printers and range from 1 to 3 hours.

All users must have an appointment before accessing the VFL (except classes). To book an appointment, visit the appointments page on VFL’s website.

More information can be found here.

Academic Integrity

Academic dishonesty, including plagiarism, will not be tolerated. Students found to have committed an act of academic dishonesty will fail the assignment for which an infraction is suspected and substantiated. More serious violations will be handled through the process enumerated in the SVA Handbook. Put simply, make sure your work is your own.

Students with Disabilities

SVA is committed to providing students with access to their academic programs and courses. If you are a student with a disability and require accommodations, you must register with Disability Resources by visiting their website and completing an online accommodation request. To be eligible for accommodations in this course, students must provide the instructor with a letter of accommodation from Disability Resources. For questions or assistance, please call Disability Resources at 212-592-2396, or visit the office: 340 East 24th Street, New York, NY 10010, or email

SVA Attendance Policy

The SVA Handbook says: The School of Visual Arts is a professional art college dedicated to teaching and learning. Attendance is required in all courses, and the individual faculty member determines the number of acceptable absences, if any. However, students who are marked absent for one-third of the sessions for a given course will be administratively withdrawn from the course with a grade of W.

Pronouns and Chosen Names

Students may indicate their pronouns and preferred/chosen first name through MyServices; this information will then appear on class rosters (go to: and select “Edit Personal Identity”).

Please let your instructor know the preferred name and pronouns by which you would like to be referred, if that information does not already appear on the roster. A student’s chosen name and pronouns should be respected at all times.