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CS294-84 / ME290U: Interactive Device Design

Fall 2013, UC Berkeley. CCN: 27010 (3 units)

This course teaches concepts and skills required to design, prototype, and fabricate interactive devices -- that is, physical objects that intelligently respond to user input and enable new types of interactions. The first half of the semester will be dedicated to a survey of relevant techniques in 3D modeling and fabrication; electronics and circuit board design; sensing and actuation for interaction; embedded software development, wired and wireless communication with mobile devices, computers, and networks; and user interface programming. In the second half of the semester, students will propose and carry out a significant design project of their own choice in groups. We encourage students to work on projects in health technologies (a CITRIS focus area); PhD students can also explore projects related to their area of research after consultation with us.

Class sessions will alternate between concepts and experiential learning. All classes will be held in the CITRIS Invention Lab, 141 Sutardja Dai Hall.

CITRIS Invention Lab


Because of the hands-on nature of this course, we have a strict capacity limit of 30 students. All students are initially placed on the wait list. In order to be considered for the class you must:

  • Be on the waitlist for either CS294-84 (Hartmann) or ME290U (Wright)
  • Come to the first class meeting and sign in
  • Fill out our entry survey by Wednesday 9/4 11:59pm


  • Programming experience required: This is a computer science course. You will program embedded systems for this course. You should be able to pick up a new language and API (with some help from us). Knowing the equivalent of the CS61A-C series at Berkeley should be sufficient.
  • User Interface Design experience very useful: Your projects will have both software and hardware user interfaces. Some background in user interface design, e.g., INFO290 Tangible Interaction or CS160 User Interface Design is valuable.
  • 3D modeling skills very useful, but not required: You will model and fabricate parts on our FDM machine. If you want to get a head start, learn how to use SolidWorks, but we'll also have a tutorial.
  • Some electronics experience useful, but not required: You will build basic sensing and actuation circuits. The threshold for doing this has decreased rapidly in recent years, but you will be soldering your own electronics. If you have taken the equivalent of EE40 or have built projects Arduino boards before, you'll be fine.

If you have no programming background, you should not take this course. If you do not have experience in at least one of (UI design, 3D modeling, electronics) you should not take this course. You must be comfortable with learning a sizable set of new tools and processes, quickly.

Course Information

Instructors: Bjoern Hartmann and Paul Wright.

Lab Managers and Fab Gurus: Mark Oehlberg and Chris Myers.

Piazza Group (for any course-related questions):

If you have a technical question about your homework or project, please ask the class first through this group. For individual, class-related issues, use the private messaging feature on Piazza. Do not send individual email.

Lab Fee: This course requires payment of a lab fee of $125 for a semester pass to the CITRIS Invention Lab and a basic electronics kit. Also expect additional out-of-pocket expenses for electronics and consumables for your class project.

Lab Hours: Are posted on our Lab calendar.

Class Meeting Times: MW 10:30am-12pm in 141 Sutardja Dai Hall

Textbook: There is no required textbook for this class. There will be readings assigned for many lectures. The readings will be available online through this wiki. You may have to submit reading responses for those lectures through links on this wiki.

Media: If you are not a student but want to keep up with the latest events in the class, take a look at the News Blog.


Week 1

W, Sep 4: Introduction

Assignment due today!: Entry survey / course petition by Wednesday 9/4 11:59pm
Assignment: Reading Response due by 9am on Monday Sep 9
Assignment: Bring $125 check for lab fee to Monday's class, payable to UC Regents
Assignment: Read and sign Waiver of Liability, Assumption of Risk, and Indemnity Agreement and bring to Monday's class (Pdf: File:Waiver-inventionlab-2013.pdf)
Reading: Designing Bespoke Interactive Devices, Björn Hartmann and Paul K. Wright IEEE Computer August 2013, Volume 46, Number 8, pp. 85-89

Lab: Soldering Lab Friday (Sign up for a time slot - more times next week)

Week 2

M, Sep 9: Electronics and Microcontrollers 101

Reading: Review Material from F. Mims III, Getting Started in Electronics, p. 8,9,14,18-19,20-21,28-31,32-35.
Reading: J. Borchers, Arduino in a Nutshell, p. 1-12.
Due: Reading Response
Due: Bring $125 check for lab fee to CITRIS front desk, payable to UC Regents; bring receipt to class
Due: Read and sign Waiver of Liability, Assumption of Risk, and Indemnity Agreement and bring to Monday's class (Pdf: File:Waiver-inventionlab-2013.pdf)
Assignment HW 1 - Microcontroller Kit due Fri, Sep 13

Lab: Soldering Lab Tue 10:30-noon, 2:30pm-4pm (Sign up for a time slot)

W, Sep 11: Discrete Input and Text Entry Devices

Reading: Text Entry Techniques - Section 4.1 from MacKenzie and Soukoreff, 2002.
Reference (not required): Switches - Section 3.3 from P. Scherz, Practical Electronics for Inventors
Due: Reading Response (covers only MacKenzie and Soukoreff).
Assignment: HW 2 - Text Entry Device due Fri, Sep 20

Lab: Arduino Programming (cancelled)

F, Sep 13: No class, but assignment due

Due: HW 1 - Microcontroller Kit

Week 3: Sensors

M, Sep 16: Sensors 1 - Continuous Input

Reading: Selections from O'Sullivan and Igoe, Physical Computing
No Reading Response

W, Sep 18: Sensors 2 - Recognition Techniques

Assignment: HW 3 - Gesture Recognition due Mon, Sep 30 before class.

Lab: Laser Cutting (sign up on Invention Lab web site: [1])

F, Sep 20: No class, but assignment due

Due: HW 2 - Text Entry Device

Week 4: From Input to Output

M, Sep 23: Identity: Barcodes, Fiducial Markers, RFID (Bjoern)

Reading: Roy Want, RFID - A Key to Automating Everything, Scientific American 2004
Reading: Nicolai Marquardt - Rethinking RFID. CHI 2010.

W, Sep 25: Actuation (Bjoern)

Reading: Pages from Scherz, O'Sullivan and Igoe on LEDs and Motors
Due: Reading Response

Week 5: Rapid Prototyping / Needfinding

M, Sep 30: Rapid Prototyping, Playtest (Paul)

Due: HW 3 - Gesture Recognition before class - play test at 11:30am!
Assignment: P 1 - Project Brainstorm, due Oct 14 before class

W, Oct 2: Project Kickoff: Ideation, Storyboards (Paul, Guest Speaker: Mozziyar Etemadi)

Reading: The New Maker Rules (The Economist, 11/24/2012).
Reading (optional): The Third Industrial Revolution (The Economist, 4/21/2012).
Assignment: Install Solidworks, due Oct 7 before class
Due: Playtest reflection (instead of reading response)

Week 6: CAD / Guest speakers

M, Oct 7: Solidworks 1 (Rich Winslow, Bjoern at UIST)

Viewing: SolidWorks tutorial video
Due: Install Solidworks and bring laptop to class
Due: Viewing response
Assignment: HW 4 - Solid Modeling, due Wednesday, 10/16, before class

W, Oct 9: Solidworks 2 (Rich Winslow, Bjoern at UIST)

Due: Reading Response
Reading: Think like a machinist when creating solid models

Week 7:

M, Oct 14: Project Idea Presentations

Due: P 1 - Project Brainstorm
Assignment: P 2 - Observation

W, Oct 16: Guest Speaker: Ted Selker

Reading: Mike Kuniavsky, Smart Things Ch14: Observation and Ideation
'Optional Reading: Principles of Contextual Inquiry. Contextual Design. Chap 3. Beyer & Holtzblatt.
Due: HW 4 - Solid Modeling, before class

Week 8: Wireless Communication

M, Oct 21: Wireless 1: Peer-to-peer and Connecting Embedded Hardware to the Web

Paul Jacobs (CEO, Qualcomm) visits class and Invention Lab
Reading: Getting Started with XBee Radios (Ch1, p.8-17; read 1-8 as well if you're totally new to networking)
Reading: James Marshall, HTTP Made Really Easy.
Reading: HTML5 Web Sockets
Assignment: P 3 - First Prototypes, due Wed Oct 30 before class

W, Oct 23: Wireless 2: Connecting to mobile devices

Reading: Pages from Robin Heydon - Bluetooth Low Energy Developer's Handbook
Due: Reading Response
Due: P 2 - Observation

Topics to be assigned to remaining lectures: Camera-based interactions, Proximity and Indoor localization, Interaction Design, Power considerations, PCB Design and Fabrication, Business Plans and Crowdfunding, Prototype to Product: Volume Manufacturing and Injection Molding, Guest lectures.

Week 9:

M, Oct 28: Guest Talk: Steve Beck

Assignment: HW 5 - Wireless Communication, due Fri Nov 8 by 5pm

W, Oct 30: Prototype to Product - Volume Manufacturing, Injection Molding

Due: ProtoMold Design Check (in lieu of reading response)

Week 10:

M, Nov 4: Prototype Presentation and Critique

Reading: Paul Wright. Plastic Products Manufacturing and Final Assembly. (Chapter 8 from 21st Century Manufacturing)
Due: P 3 - First Prototypes revised due date!

W, Nov 6: Manufacturing journalist Paul Markillie (Economist) visits

F, Nov 8: No class, but assignment due

Due: HW 5 - Wireless Communication

Week 11:

M, Nov 11: No Class - Veterans' Day (Academic Holiday)

W, Nov 13: PCB Design

Reading: Arduino on a Breadboard. Tom Igoe. (Skim to understand what parts are required to design your own Arduino-compatible PCB).
Video: CadSoft Eagle Tutorial Part 1, Part 2. (Takes ~ 1 hour for both parts)
Due: Install CADSoft Eagle on your personal laptop and bring it to class.

Week 12:

M, Nov 18: Interaction Design Patterns for Connected Devices

Assignment: P 4 - Production Files Rev 1, due 11/25

W, Nov 20: Power Considerations; Surface-mount soldering

Reading: Sparkfun Surfacemount Soldering Tutorials
Due: Reading Response

Week 13:

M, Nov 25: Business Plans

Due: P 4 - Production Files Rev 1
Assignment: P 5 - Alpha Version

W, Nov 27: No class, but lab might be open

T, Nov 28: Thanksgiving

Week 14: Last Week of Classes

M, Dec 2: Research Directions

Reading: File:Solasure-businessplan.pdf. Read this sample business plan. Focus on the executive summary and budget sections; plan to spend up to 30 minutes (but no more) on this.
Due: Reading response

W, Dec 4: Production Values: Photography, Poster production

Reading: Product Photography Tips, UIST Poster Gallery
Watch: Peter Belanger - Macworld Cover Creation (to get an idea of how much detail goes into a good product shot)
Assignment: P 6 - Photos, Poster, Presentation due Thursday 12/12.
Assignment: P 7 - Business Plan due Monday 12/16

Fri Dec 6: Demo P 5 - Alpha Version to course staff

Week 15: RRR Week

M, Dec 9: No class, but we'll be available for advice in the lab.

Th, Dec 12: Final Presentations - 2-5pm, Talks in 141SDH followed by posters+demos in 300SDH (atrium).

Due: P 6 - Photos, Poster, Presentation

M, Dec 16: Due: P 7 - Business Plan

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