Ryerson Physical Computing Workshop

Ryerson University Physical Computing Workshop

I recently taught a workshop on physical computing to architecture students at Ryerson University in Toronto. The course was for 30 people and lasted two days. I designed the course to help students learn how to combine physical sensors and actuators with the digital design tools they were already using in their architectural design work.

The first day covered a basic introduction to electronics and then familiarizing students with the Arduino hardware and IDE. We had a number of of sensors and basic electronics components like LEDs and potentiometers at our disposal. We combined them in various ways familiarizing everyone with the essential ideas of input and output in both digial and analog using the Arduino microcontroller.

The second day focused on how to combine the lessons learned in the first day with other applications like Processing and Rhino/Grasshopper. These lessons were definitely the most interesting as they had very obvious implications for how they could be applied to student’s architectural design work. Some simple examples from these lessons are visible in the videos below.

This has been the largest course I’ve prepared and delivered so far. The experience was very educational, even for me. I have a whole now appreciation for the amount of preparation and care that goes into designing a course that is digestible for variety of people with varying aptitudes and skill levels. Striking a balance during the presentation between covering all the content, delivering it in an engaging way and keeping an appropriate pace for a large group of people is definitely an art form that will take a lot of practice to master. Overall the course was very well received, with lots of positive student feedback. As I surveyed the room throughout the duration of the workshop everyone was able to keep up and implement all of the exercises. I was thrilled to see many people going beyond the basic material and applying the lessons to their own projects and experiments.

Demonstration of a flex sensor connected to Rhino/Grasshopper using an Arduino and the Firefly plugin.

Visualization of a photocell using Processing and an Arduino.

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