Physical computing pioneer Tom Igoe describes the subject as “an approach to learning how humans communicate through computers that starts by considering how humans express themselves physically.” Rather than assume that the keyboard, mouse and screen will define how people interact with our exhibits

In physical computing, we take the human body as a given, and attempt to design within the limits of its expression. This means that we have to learn how a computer converts the changes in energy given off by our bodies, in the form of heat, light, sound, and so forth, into changing electronic signals that it can read and interpret. We learn about the sensors that do this, and about very simple computers, called microcontrollers, that read sensors and convert their output into data. Finally, we learn how microcontrollers communicate with other computers.


Example Projects

In class we will be using the Seeed Studios electronic brick starter kit, which has a basic assortment of digital and analog input and output devices.


  • Seeed Studios, Electronic Bricks Cookbook, volume 1.  We don’t have all of the components described in this booklet, but the Cookbook is a useful reference for the components that we do have.