Final Project


Create a physical and interactive object or experience.


This project is a culmination of all of the skillbuilding you’ve done this semester. As such, we expect you to incorporate as much of the things you’ve learned as is possible/feasible/desirable for your project. That being said, don’t shoehorn things in that don’t fit, just to check off boxes.


Monday, April 10th — Mid Review Crit (guest critics review sketches, demo of physical prototype)
Wednesday, April 26th — Final Check In (in class, without guest critics)
Monday, May 1st — Final Crit (fully working project, prepared demo presentation)
Saturday, May 13th — Final Documentation Due @ Midnight (for all projects)



  • At least one physical I/O component
    • Sensor or Actuator
  • Computation
    • This project requires some analysis of input data: filtering, deciphering, projecting, predicting, etc.
  • Physical form
    • The physical characteristics of your project must be considered and intentional.
  • Documentation
    • High fidelity video explaining and demonstrating the project
      • Must be shot on a DSLR or better
      • Intentional lighting (outside, near window, in a studio, in a gallery, etc)
      • Tripod. Stability. No shaky cams.
    • At least one high resolution photograph of your project.
    • Brief written description of your project, explaining the purpose and components.

Project 02 — Monitor & Alert


Watch [a] physical or digital source[s] and trigger a digital or physical alert. Your project must be physically durable.


You will work in two-person groups to design, program and build a system that monitors some stream, signal, or state and alerts users when a specific threshold, event or change occurs.

The signal that you monitor can be physical or digital; you can watch a sensor or series of sensors in the physical world, or use an API to monitor events or signals on the web.

Likewise, the alerting component of your system can also be physical or digital; ringing a physical bell, popping a balloon, sending a series of text messages, emailing your local congressman… all fair game.

At least one of the two components must be physical. Robustness is a key part of this project; make your device droppable. Both the source and alert may be physical, if they communicate over a network.

This project continues to build your skills in rapid prototyping and basic electronics, and it exposes you to networked technologies such as APIs and web protocols.

Deliverables (Crit/Demo on 3/1)

  • A functioning system that completes the prompt
  • Documentation
    • A well-documented Git repo of all your code on GitHub
    • Photos of your process work (take these throughout)
    • Photos of your machine both stationary and in action
    • A step-by-step Instructables post walking a user through the process of building the system.
      • Only one post is necessary
      • Each team member must email a link to the post to Jake and John, accompanied by a brief explanation of their role in the project.


Nest Protect

Range Dial Thermometer

pplkpr by Lauren McCarthy and Kyle McDonald

The Deep Sweep by The Critical Engineering Working Group

Weather Service + IFTTT


Withings Aura

Project 01 — Artifactory


Generate [a] physical artifact[s] from expressive user input


You will work on your own to design and build your own machine that creates physical object[s] when given user input. The output must be tangible/holdable. The input can be physical (read by a sensor), or digital (for example: scraped from the web).

Combine parts like DC motors, Servos, and Stepper Motors with gears and linkages to create a drawing, jewelry, sculpture, etc. Read expressive input with analog sensors. Feel free to use parts from around the PhysComp lab, and found parts from local Pittsburgh stores, like PCCR, Goodwill Computer Works, and Construction Junction.

This project starts to build your skills in rapid prototyping, basic electronics, kinematics, and basic microcontroller programming.

Deliverables (Crit on 2/13)

  • A machine that completes the prompt
  • If possible, an assortment of your artifacts
  • Documentation
    • A well-documented Git repo of all your code on GitHub
    • Photos of your process work (take these throughout)
    • Photos of your machine both stationary and in action
    • An overhead step-by-step guide video/gif, similar in style to the instructional GIFs you might find on /r/GIFRecipes

Project 00

Complete as many sub-projects as you can, in order, before the next class:

  1. Draw a circle with a stroke and a fill in the center of the screen
  2. Draw 200 circles of increasing size and color value in a rectangular grid
  3. Animate a circle so it chases your cursor, like a ghost chasing after Pac-Man
  4. Draw three circles with different personalities that chase your cursor
  5. Build your own copy of or Boomshine
  6. Animate two shapes with the following script (for inspiration: Heider and Simmel):
    1. Shapes enter scene
    2. Shapes begin discussion
    3. Shapes begin to bicker
    4. Shapes angrily walk away from each other, leaving the scene


  1. A Git repo (hosted on GitHub) with a separate folder for each sub-project
  2. All code for each project, liberally commented
  3. Screen recordings (video or GIF) of each sub-project