Physical Computing – The Basics

//Sensing and controlling the world using small computers

Workshop Dates: June 26 – 30, 2017

Keywords: prototyping, manufacturing, arduino

Computers are ubiquitous to our lives. Unless you live isolated at the top of a mountain or at bottom of a pit, chances are you cannot live more than a few minutes without encountering one of these pieces of technology, most of the time without even realising you did. There are computers in your oven, on your wrist, at the bus stop, in the coffee shop. These are not the computers we use to make Powerpoint Presentations (laughter), but are indeed very powerful machines for the tasks they’re delegated to.
The 20th century has carried some of the most extraordinary discoveries in human history, and the invention of the transistor has allowed us to jump leaps ahead and create new things, new technology that before could only be found in sci-fi novels.
Humans have bent the transistor to their will, finding ways around a very basic principle to store almost every type of information suitable to us. This very basic principle has been dealt with by philosophers since the dawn of time, and it’s the concept of two opposites: True and False.
We establish rules that make sense to us to encode information, process it and obtain results.
Advancements in production techniques allowed us to shrink transistors to nanometric scale. Few decades ago we saw the rise of portable devices that allowed us to be connected in every moment and place, and we are already experiencing a new “wave of computing”, pervasive computing.
This paradigm, also known as the Internet of Things, may in the next few years disrupt the way we interact with each other, with information, and the world around us.
Physical Computing gives us a powerful shortcut into this realm. It is an incredible tool to understand how things work, and how we can hack them to behave the way we would like them to. It is a fast prototyping technique that allows us to quickly test and demonstrate an idea.
During this week we will focus on the basic principles of Physical Computing: how to program an Arduino, how to attach sensors and actuators to it, how to read values via the serial port, how to interact with Arduino from an on-screen interface, how to connect Arduinos to Internet and to each others.
CIID will provide Arduino Kits and sensors, keeping the ownership.

Learning Expectations:
Participants will:

  • Get familiar with controlling electronics through logic and code
  • Use Arduino as a sensing and output device
  • Learn the role and potential of Programming and Physical Computing within the design process


Massimo Banzi
Ubi De Feo