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

Pink open-top wooden box with LED illumination. Facing the viewer, a small LCD display screen is inset, reading the date and time.

Wheelchair-mounted Alarm Clock for Darnisha by Team Peaches (a final project from spring 2023)

Class meetings

  • Tuesdays and Thursdays, noon–1:50pm., room A10 in Hunt Library (IDeATe’s Physical Computing Lab)

Professor: Robert Zacharias, (subtract the cation)

Professor’s lab hours

  • Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:50–2:30pm, in HL A9A
  • and liberally available at other times (please email for an appointment)

Teaching Assistant: Sejal Madan, (minus the cation)

TA’s lab hours: TBA

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.


Syllabus PDF here.

Topic and assignment schedule