2. Assignments

For all assignments, please consult the Fall 2015 Calendar for precise due dates. Please also become aware of the stringent requirements of the Lateness Policy.

2.9. Lab Notebook

Each student is required to keep a personal record of the technical lab exercises they complete. We will call this the ‘lab notebook’, although the physical format is up to the student as long as it meets deliverable requirements.

There are several checkpoints in the semester when your instructor will examine your documents. The first deadline is early (Notebook 1A) just so we have a chance to clear up any misunderstanding about expectations. The others occur at the end of each unit (Notebook 1B,2,3).

The main purposes for requiring you to keep a record of your lab exercises are prompting reflection and documenting your progress. We also hope it may form a personal reference guide to the techniques you learn which may help you when working on projects.

Prompting Reflection. Learning isn’t just about doing, it’s about integrating new experience into knowledge by reflecting on the process. Each lab notebook entry should answer one or more of the following prompts in a concise sentence or two:

  • What did I learn?
  • What do you think the instructor intended you to learn?
  • What was the most surprising outcome?
  • How specifically will this help me achieve my goals?

Think in terms of an articulable principle which you could teach to others.

Documenting Progress. If your instructors and peers can see what you’ve done they may be able to point out details or suggest alternatives. The minimum requirements for documentation are as follows:

  • Note the name of the exercise.
  • Note the date and time of completion.
  • List any partner(s). You will work with many different partners; you may share material or write a notebook entry collaboratively, but each student should include a copy of the entry in your individual notebook.

It may also be useful to include a meaningful photograph or sketches. Video can be handy for your own reference, but in order to keep grading review manageable your videos may or not be examined by the instructor. If you include video, please upload them to a server and note the URL.

Additional Prompts. Here are other suggested questions to consider when completing exercises.

  • Did the process fail in an interesting way?
  • Was there a particular problem which caused a seemingly disproportionate effort or time to overcome?
  • Is there an error in the exercise text? (If so, please check the Errata first then consider reporting it.)
  • How could the exercise be improved?

Physical Format. The notebook may be kept in either a physical or digital form. There are advantages to each: it is fast and easy to sketch on paper, but digital can be duplicated more easily for submission. Here are some suggestions:

  • Use a physical notebook, one page per exercise. At each checkpoint, turn it in to your instructor. (You’ll lose it for a few days.)
  • If you can’t stand giving it up, use a physical notebook or loose-leaf binder, one page per exercise, and submit stapled photocopies.
  • If you prefer to type (or want to include a lot of links), write it up as a single document file, one section per exercise. PDF, plain text, or HTML is greatly preferred over proprietary file formats (e.g. .doc, .docx, Illustrator, .fzz, etc.) If you need to include photos separately, bundle the document and photos into a single .zip file.
  • Whatever you do, please consider that your instructor will need to skim through 25 of these and make comments, so please keep it legible, organized, and concise.

2.10. Research Talk

Each student is required to give a five-minute research talk on a topic of their choosing. The short length is actually a challenge, it requires careful attention to developing and practicing a clear delivery of a few key ideas. This assignment provides practice in technical speaking and will serve to bring additional ideas into our discussion.

The topic may be chosen in one of several ways:

  1. Describe an existing project involving physical computing that was developed elsewhere.
  2. Present a synopsis of a published research paper of interest to physical computing.
  3. Research and teach a documented analytic or design technique (which must be new to you).

Please see Related Work for starting points for finding sources to research.

The primary objective of this talk is to teach a single concrete idea to your fellow students. It shouldn’t just be an vague invitation for them to go read the material; it should identify a specific lesson learned and be organized around teaching that. Here are some prompt questions which may help you plan:

  • What was the problem the paper is addressing?
  • Why is it important? What is the context?
  • What new insight was involved in the solution?
  • How well did it work?
  • What is the one key takeaway lesson?
  • Is there a way your peers could apply this solution?

In general, please focus on the thought process of the author, not your own reflections. I.e., it isn’t that helpful for your audience to hear about your personal reactions; once they hear the idea themselves they will have naturally have their own response, but a fair assessment requires a fair hearing.

Talks of this nature are usually accompanied by slides which show visual content which reinforces the explanation. Please refrain from plunking down lots of bullet-point text to read; we would prefer to hear your explanations verbally. Instead, please consider the available photographs, drawings, diagrams, or equations. Due to the short nature of the talk, video clips are not recommended unless extremely short.

In order to expedite quick transitions from talk to talk, it is highly recommended that you place your presentation materials online in a format you can quickly access in-place or download so we may use one shared cluster Mac connected to the projector. Please arrive a few minutes early on the day of your presentation to get your materials in place.

2.11. Ideation Exercise 1

The first ideation exercise is intended to generate and share an abundance of potential project ideas related to physical computing.

  1. Please consider all the themes we will be exploring through physical computing: human needs for expression, communication, life support, and pleasure; embodiment, measurement, time, signals, and algorithm; and the nature of processes which flow from physical to digital forms and back.
  2. Come up with fifty ideas for projects which address the themes above. When devising ideas, consider holding back your presumptions about what is or is not possible technically: at this stage we encourage broad, unbounded thinking.
  3. Bring your ideas to class on a physical printout following these rules:
    • all ideas on a single 8.5” x 11” piece of paper
    • one line per idea
    • number the lines
    • leave a 2-inch margin on the left hand side
  4. Submit a PDF version of your single page as a response to the Blackboard assignment. Only PDF will be accepted: do not submit document files such as .doc.

The physical format is very important as we will be passing around and reviewing idea lists at the start of class. Some general heuristics for brainstorming success can be found in the Ideation and Brainstorming resource section. For inspiring examples, see Related Work for starting points.

2.12. Initial Interview Preparation

The primary objective of the initial interview is to formulate your individual goals for the semester. It also serves as an opportunity for your instructor to know you better, which will greatly help with giving constructive advice all semester. I hope to make this as casual, conversational, and friendly as possible. This is a new element of the course so I ask for your patience as the process gets worked out.

The interview is scheduled for 15 minutes, please come promptly on time so we can stay on schedule.

Please consider the following prompts in advance:

  1. What do you hope to learn in this course?
  2. What skills are familiar to you and could be an area for high achievement?
  3. What is brand-new to you?
  4. What topics seem most important?
  5. What topics seem irrelevant?
  6. Do you have a concrete vision for what kind of ability you’d like at the end?
  7. Is there a role model you seek to emulate for this kind of work?

After some discussion we will formulate a few concrete objectives. These will be reviewed at the mid-semester and final interviews.

2.13. Skills Survey

The first assignment is to complete a survey covering a wide range of skills and experiences. Please complete the following Google form: Skill Survey Form

Completing the skill survey is mandatory. It does not count toward your grade, but no other assignments will be accepted if is unfinished.

The results are also being collected for 60-223 for comparison.

2.14. IDeATe Gallery Profile

We strongly consider every student create an account on the IDeATe project gallery and fill out profile information. It will help us to know you better and help you to discover your cohort via the IDeATe profile index.

I recommend that you consider using a pseudonymous handle for your account. The system allows for either private or public postings; some students are more comfortable posting work publicly if it won’t be forever linked to their real name.

Here is what you will need to answer during the profile interview:

  1. username (real or pseudonymous)
  2. real name (for internal use)
  3. profile image (square is best)
  4. one-paragraph biography (200 chars amx)
  5. focus areas (IDeATe program area interests)
  6. skills with which you identify (brief phrases)

If you’d like more detailed directions, we have a PDF info sheet which also addresses creating projects and placing them in pools.

You may be requested to post a version of your project documentation to the 16-223 Gallery Pool. You may also do so at your discretion. Postings may either be ‘semi-private’ and viewable only by other logged-in IDeATe members or may be ‘public’ and open to the world.