History 9832B is a studio course on interactive exhibit design, intended primarily for public historians and digital humanists. Students will learn how to create interactive exhibits through a series of hands-on projects that teach the basics of interaction design, physical computing, and desktop fabrication. No prior experience is necessary. Preference will be given to students in the public history MA program, but other graduate students may take it with my permission. Contact me at wturkel@uwo.ca for more information.


In this course you will be graded on your documentation of the design process (25%), the project(s) that you develop (50%), and your presentations in multiple media (25%). Your final grade will reflect how much you’ve learned or accomplished in this course, rather than any overall level of technical attainment.


Week 01: W Jan 06

H9832 Week 01

Week 02: W Jan 13


Week 03: W Jan 20


Week 04: W Jan 27 & Week 05: W Feb 03


  • Hi-Low Tech (MIT Media Lab, 2009-14) [Explore the site]

Week 06: W Feb 10

h9832-wk06N.B. We won’t be meeting together this week. Instead you should install SketchUp Make on your own computer and try creating a 3D model of the package that you made in week 04 or week 05. You can simplify your model as necessary. When you are finished, email me a picture of your package (or a picture of what it was supposed to look like) and a screenshot of your 3D model.

There are resources for learning SketchUp here.


Week 07: W Feb 24, Week 08: W Mar 02 & Week 09: W Mar 09


  • littleBits website
  • First week: Electronics design challenges
  • Second week: A more complicated build
  • Third week: Drawbots

Week 10: W Mar 16, Week 11: W Mar 23, Week 12: W Mar 30


Design brief: for your final project, you are going to create a prototype of a ‘kit for cultural history’, inspired by work done at the Maker Lab at the University of Victoria (see readings below). You and your partner will present your final project in class on Wednesday April 6. It is important to note that your project is going to be a proof-of-principle demonstration. It doesn’t have to be complete or work perfectly, and some aspects of the project (particularly research for historical content) can be quite sketchy. That said, you want to be able to clearly and professionally present your ideas. Imagine that you plan to use your final project to obtain seed funding or sponsorship, to show to potential employers, or as part of a grant application.

Here are the constraints your project must satisfy:

  • It must fit into a Banker’s Box with room to spare.
  • You should begin by creating sketches, storyboards, 3D models and physical prototypes. I will review these with you to help you develop and refine your idea.
  • Your project should be housed in a custom package that suits your overall concept. You will create this package out of cardboard, foamcore, corrugated plastic, and other suitable materials.
  • You should design some vector graphics that can be cut on the vinyl sign cutter (see the robots and Tyrannosaurus on the wall of the lab to get an idea of what is possible). Your graphics can be used for instruction, decoration, branding, signage, etc.
  • Your project should feature some kind of physical interaction or manipulation. The use of electronics is optional.
  • Unless I suggest it specifically, you should not plan to use Arduino, MaKey MaKey or other microcontroler-based technologies.
  • You should archive all of your documentation for the project in a GitHub repository with an appropriate license (perhaps CC-BY)

There are two general ways to approach the subject of your project. You can start with something you are interested in (e.g., the history of hockey, women in the Special Operations Executive, dinosaurs, etc.) and try to design your kit around the topic. Or you can start with a particularly compelling interaction and ask what kind of kit would provide a suitable context to display your interaction. In previous years, students who have taken the latter approach have tended to create much better final projects.

Week 13: W Apr 06