5. Course Project: Making Things Magic

The projects are the core of this course: we want to design, build, and document devices which blend digital and physical processes in expressive or useful ways. This year we will be working with the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum to develop experiences which work in the museum context. This will introduce a new area of discourse related to museum practice to provide a context for exercising the engineering vocabulary developed in the first third of the course.

The overall theme is ‘Making Things Magic’. Part of the joy of working with children is evoking wonder and delight. Computation is an invisible resource which we can embed within artifacts to give them new and surprising behaviors, and so the challenge is finding ways to evoke delight by blending the tangible and the invisible.

The project will proceed through two iterations. Students will work in pairs and are encouraged but not required to change partners as we move from phase to phase. Each phase will involve exploring another aspect of the design problem and is intended to be treated as an process of iteration rather than three distinct outcomes. However, if a particular iteration seems to be a dead end, students may choose to switch to another idea or borrow an idea from another group.