1.7. Assignments

Following is the complete list of assignments. These entries will be linked to detailed prompts as the semester unfolds. The tentative daily plan is described on the Fall 2015 Calendar. Please also become aware of the stringent requirements of the Lateness Policy.

1.7.2. Skill 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.

1.7.3. 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)

You have the option to post a version of your project documentation to the 16-375 Gallery Pool. Postings may either be ‘semi-private’ and viewable only by other logged-in IDeATe members or may be ‘public’ and open to the world.

1.7.4. Personal Project Talk

The content of this talk should be a concise five-minute presentation of a single project on which you have worked. This has twofold objectives: show your peers a taste of your experience and interests and demonstrate your ability to articulate a clear and concise project narrative. Ideally the project would both relate to a broader purpose and include elements of robotics, physical computing, or other technical area, but the selection is at your discretion.

Please be sure to answer the basic W questions: What did you do? Why? For whom was it intended? What did you learn?

There are no formal media requirements, although visual content of some kind is highly recommended. For efficiency of presentation, please place any media (slides, video links, etc.) online and we can share a single IDeATe MacBook Pro for presentation via the projector.

1.7.5. Research Paper Presentation

The content of this presentation should be a concise eight-minute verbal review of a published research paper, followed by a two-minute open question period. The objectives are as follows:

  • develop experience interpreting academic literature
  • develop abilities to present technical material to a general audience
  • introduce new concepts and techniques to the class
  • practice academic presentation style

The selection of the paper is at your discretion, although it is highly recommended that you find a project or result related to your overall project goals. Please note that academic papers are usually written for a speciality audience. Part of the challenge is recognizing the unspoken assumptions in the discourse, including both unarticulated motivations and theoretical foundations.

Please be sure to address the following prompts:

  • What was the key result?
  • Why is this important?
  • In what way does this extend the field of inquiry?
  • What future work does this suggest?

Please be sure to prepare appropriate visual media for projection. You may use your own computer or an IDeATe cluster laptop. All talks will be recorded for review but not posted publicly.

Please also submit a one-page outline documenting the following:

  • A brief abstract with a concise summary of your answers to the prompts above.
  • The specific sources you are citing, preferably in standard bibliographic form. If you have DOI URLs, please include those, as it greatly eases adding the references to the course bibliography. If not, please include any normal URLs.

Please see Bibliography for starting points for finding literature. A good heuristic is to first read some abstracts, looking for topic areas of interest. For papers which seem promising, look at their citation list both to see the context of the work and to find possibly better papers. For this course, papers with more narrative content will be more approachable than highly technical papers.

1.7.6. Ideation Exercises

There will be two in-class brainstorming sessions driven by an preparatory ideation exercise to be completed individually in advance. The two sessions will each have a similar format but differing prompts. Please be sure to read the Ideation Exercise Format section carefully before beginning. Ideation Exercise 1

The first ideation exercise is intended to develop concepts for the final show. Please prepare the following as per Ideation Exercise Format:

  1. 20 ideas for performance machines. These might be animatronic actors, kinetic sculptures, useless machines, etc. These should be systems with embodied behavior which can be shaped to a creative purpose.
  2. 20 ideas for organizing a final show. This should include a suggested location (concrete or abstract), a format, and a theme (even if very broad).

As starting points for your ideas, please consider all the themes we will be exploring under the rubric of surprisingly animate machines: embodied behavior, physical dynamics, human interaction, body empathy, autonomy and agency, non-anthropomorphic characters, etc.

Please think broadly and don’t be limited to what you consider technically possible at this point: a feasible project lives in the germ of every idea. Whimsy, ambition, and outright fantasy are all welcome. But please think of ideas which connect to your creative practice: would your machine tell a story? Create an emotional response? Explore our preconceptions of technology? Be a provocation?

Some examples for show formats: public art exhibition, gallery show, scripted performance, walk-through performance, busking, variety show, carnival booth, puppet theater.

Sample show organizations:

  1. Hunt Studio A, gallery show, “Robot Con Artists”
  2. CFA Lawn, busking, “Chinese Dragon Dance”
  3. CFA Lobby, walk-through performance, “Cafeteria of the Damned”
  4. Gates coffeeshop, mid-air sculptural installation, “Birds of Prey”
  5. Doherty basement, scripted performance, theatrical play with actors wearing robots Ideation Exercise 2

Prompts TBD. Ideation Exercise Format

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

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. For inspiring examples, see Related Work / Case Studies or Bibliography for starting points.

1.7.7. Exercises

The exercises are primarily intended to be performed in-class, some individually and some in pairs. Each student must keep a short log (the “notebook”) documenting their results. The log will be evaluated at the end of each unit. 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 this course has very relaxed documentation requirements in keeping with the freeform exercise sequence.

The primary documentation is a series of short videos, each demonstrating a mini-performance at the end of each exercise. Particular exercises may also require a short quantity of text. Unit 1: Embodiment

The following is a tentative list of exercises. This is subject to change in response to student needs. The detailed guide to the exercises is in the Course Git Repository.

  1. G-code stepper motor motion
  2. state machines
  3. mechanical behavior
  4. trajectory generation
  5. closed-loop feedback
  6. elementary computer vision
  7. Motoman choreography Unit 2: Articulation

  1. notecard programs
  2. responsive interaction
  3. elementary machine learning
  4. elementary search-based planning

1.7.8. Projects

The course includes two projects, each divided into two phases. Each project phase has its own documentation requirements, and the specific selection of milestones will be individually negotiated with each group. This tick/tock scheme allows for varying project plans such as the following:

  1. proof-of-concept test / full protototype
  2. hardware development / software development
  3. create a tool / compose for it Project Proposals

All projects are developed by pairs of students. In general, each project plan needs to detail expectations for all incremental milestones. Examples include:

  1. group selection
  2. concept sketches
  3. behavior role play
  4. project plan review
  5. schematic design drawings
  6. simulation
  7. mechanical and electrical design
  8. software architecture
  9. fabrication
  10. proof-of-concept test
  11. mid-project documentation
  12. revised design
  13. mechanical prototype
  14. software prototype
  15. final demonstration
  16. video documentation
  17. in-class critique (see General Requirements for In-class Critiques)
  18. written report (see Requirements for Final Project Reports)

All details are negotiable with the instructor; if you would like a variant project scheme, please ask. Final Performance

The final project will culminate in a public performance, date and location TBD. General Requirements for In-class Critiques

The in-class presentation and critique of projects serves several purposes:

  1. provides a live performance or demonstration for evaluation
  2. demonstrates your ability to speak succintly about your ideas
  3. provides the primary opportunity for your peers to see and comment on your work

Please prepare for the critique as follows:

  1. Please be prepared to give a brief (typically 2 minute) verbal overview of your idea and execution. Please rehearse this explanation ahead of time.
  2. Please be prepared to demonstrate or perform at your designated time. Please rehearse your performance ahead of time.
  3. For the project artifacts and performance, the overall emphasis is on proof-of-concept rather than fit and finish. Please be prepared to designate what issues were deliberately set aside and which were explored to guide the critique. But please be prepared to justify this choice in light of the overall concept.
  4. In-class critique may still consider all features in relation to their support of the concept, especially when guest instructors are present. When this happens, please consider this an exploration of your idea that goes beyond the graded evaluation. Requirements for Final Project Reports

The objective of assigning reports is to encourage evaluative thinking throughout the process of development. Writing and sketching is must faster than physically building something, and witing the core of the report first is a great way to clarify a concept. It is highly recommended to consider the report requirements throughout your process, e.g., by taking in-process notes and photos, and fully drawing out designs.

  1. All projects require an accompanying report document in PDF format. An outline of specific prompt questions will be provided for each assignment, with a denotation of required and optional elements.
  2. Each individual member of a group must submit their own report, as each report includes a statement of personal contribution and peer evaluation. However, general descriptive text, narrative, photos, and technical documentation may be collaboratively created.
  3. The report must include clear attribution of the report author, individual group authorship, and citations of related work.
  4. Any project photos must also be embedded within the PDF document, and provided at a print-ready resolution (e.g. 300dpi).
  5. Project videos must be uploaded to the hosting service of your choice and an active, clickable link provided within the body of the PDF report. Please check the documentation of your authoring software if you need help making your links active.
  6. Project videos must adhere to the minimum and maximum duration limits, including titles and credits.
  7. Project videos are encouraged to include a title and credits.
  8. In general, enough construction documentation must be provided that a person of equal skill could replicate the construction of the project.
  9. All program source code is required and must be provided in a single zip file.
  10. Electronic schematics and fabrication diagrams must be provided in PDF form, either embedded in the main report or as a separate PDF. Schematics must reflect the as-built state. Schematics must use conventional symbols and notation. Hand-drawn or illustrated schematics are acceptable, but the use of schematic capture software such as EAGLE is recommended as it will help reduce errors.
  11. Mechanical drawings or sketches must be provided in PDF form, either embedded in the main report or as a separate PDF. Mechanical drawings must clearly specify the scale and units.
  12. Any original CAD files are required. Multi-file designs (typical for SolidWorks) must be provided as a single zip file.
  13. Formatting and typography are at your discretion. However, beautiful graphic design won’t be rewarded, so please use your effort wisely.