Introduction to Physical Computing (60-223) is a 10-credit semester project-based course offered at Carnegie Mellon University by the School of Art under the auspices of IDeATe.

Mouse Detector by Team Emily (a final project from spring 2020)

Professor: Robert Zacharias, (subtract the cation)

Class meetings

  • Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:20–11:10 a.m., room A10 in Hunt Library (IDeATe’s Physical Computing Lab)
  • Remote class meetings are conducted on the same schedule via Zoom; please see the class Canvas site (linked on the navigation bar to the left) for the meeting ID.

Lab hours

  • 11:20 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays
  • and liberally by appointment (just email Zach with your request)

Course synopsis

The first half of this practical project-based course is spent covering the basic technical skills (including electronics, programming, and hardware) needed to build simple interactive objects with embedded behavior using the Arduino microcontroller. Inputs to read information about the world include sensors such as an ultrasonic ranger, thermometer, light sensor, and human inputs like buttons and knobs. Outputs to affect the world include actuators such as motors, LED lights, speakers, and haptic feedback devices. Individual and group projects challenge students to apply their technical skills in creative ways. The class will be working with a local group of people living with disabilities who serve as design clients for the final project; students conjure and build functioning assistive devices of a practical or whimsical nature for their critique and feedback. Readings and guest speakers address topics pertaining to design for people with different abilities.


  • The PDF version of the syllabus is available here
  • The webpage version is available here