3. Assignments

Following is the draft of the full list of individual and group assignments. This course is still under revision, so this may change. Please keep in mind that the objective of each of these tasks is to develop individual skills in each student so they may contribute to the success of the team project.

3.1. Discussion Presentation

Objective: lead a 20-minute discussion of a paper or project related to robotic or machine manipulation from either an artistic, industrial, or research context.


  1. Five to ten minutes of didactic presentation to provide background.

    Points to consider:

    1. Who, what, when, where: make sure we know the basic context, what the thing does, etc.
    2. What was the question or problem the project is addressing?
    3. What new insight did it take to make it happen?
    4. How well did it work?
    5. What are ways it relates to our theme?
      1. Is there a clear boundary between the machine and the material or object?
      2. Where is the agency?
      3. What kind of uncertainty is present in the process?
    6. What do you consider to be the one key takeaway lesson?
    7. Is there a way your peers could apply the core idea?
  2. Several prepared prompt questions to guide a class discussion.

  3. Blog post with all citations, notes, and media.

    1. All sources must be cited. For papers, please use a standard bibliographic form. Web resources should be linked in a browsable form (e.g. make sure they are links).
    2. All media should be included in a browsable form, either as external links, Google Slides, or directly posted.
    3. Please do not post a PowerPoint file, that isn’t browsable.

3.2. Project Pitch

Objective: develop a specific project idea to propose as a group project.

Deliverable: a text blog post with an outline or description of a complete idea, including one or more hand-drawn sketches which illustrate the concept.

This assignment is intended to develop individual skill at resolving the general questions of the course into a specific project idea. The actual group project focus will be reached by consensus, probably from one or more of these pitches.

Please keep the idea within the general theme of the course: the dynamic interaction of a robot or machine or mechanism and an object or materials as a performance medium.

Specificity is generative. The more details you can generate, the better you can communicate your intent. The following list of prompts may help you clarify details?

Prompt Questions

  1. What the main idea?
  2. What is the machine? What is the object?
  3. What is the narrative implied by the physical interaction?
  4. What, where, how? I.e., exactly what does the viewer see and hear, over what timescale, and at what physical scale? Are there multiples? Is it repetitive in time? Is there a beginning or end?
  5. What question will be answered by making this work?
  6. What are creative constraints which would focus the performance on the chosen question?
  7. How does the physical form underscore the dynamic behavior?
  8. Where is the locus of agency?
  9. How is it surprisingly animate?
  10. Is there some sense of success versus failure?
  11. What kind of materials are needed? How do they support the concept?
  12. What kind of sensors and actuators?
  13. Where can we cut corners on implementation? Where can we not?
  14. Are there specific alternatives to consider?

3.3. Project Proposal

Objective: negotiate a group consensus around a specific project idea and develop a detailed project proposal.

Deliverable: a text blog post with an outline or description of a complete project idea, including hand-drawn sketches and project planning outlines as described below.

The project proposal is a design document which should both capture the project group consensus and detail a plan of action. It is not a contract; it is expected that details will change. But it must represent a full and feasible plan for producing a successful piece to show. It should raise all questions which the project might answer, even though more will be uncovered.

As with the pitch, please keep the idea within the general theme of the course: the dynamic interaction of a robot or machine or mechanism and an object or materials as a performance medium. The same general prompt questions also still apply.

Please include at least the following main elements:

  1. A clear and concise statement of the overall concept.
  2. A narrative description of what the viewer or participant might experience.
  3. A brief justification how the project relates to the course themes.
  4. A description of the physical resources required: materials, mechanisms, electronics, computation.

Please also identify the objectives for the following milestones:

proof-of-concept demonstration:
 The smallest possible demo which supports that the concept will work both artistically and technically. Most project usually start with one or more unanswered questions, and this demo is the chance to test the most critical of these.
initial design documentation:
 Once the concept is established, a detailed design can be developed. A kinetic sculpture is a machine with tightly intertwined constraints; planning is essential in the form of paper and CAD drawings, block diagrams, code outline, parts list, and a purchasing plan.
critical path analysis:
 The multiple parts of the project are dependent; some decisions must be made sooner than others. The critical path is the longest path through the sequence of decisions and represents the rate-limiting development pathway.
phase 1 prototype:
 The first prototype should realize the concept, albeit imperfectly. Your group should focus on the critical path and may choose specific implementation details to neglect.
phase 2 prototype:
 The second prototype will likely be a revision of the first to account for unexpected outcomes. All elements should be resolved.

3.4. Proof-of-Concept Demonstration


3.5. Phase 1 Critique


3.6. Performance


3.7. Project Documentation


3.8. Phase 2 Critique


3.9. Project Contribution Statement


3.10. Peer Critique