Making Things Smart

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Life is increasingly mediated by digital technology. From smart phones to intelligent thermostats, the emerging world of smart objects uses sensors, algorithms, and effectors to shape how we experience information, space/time, and each other. As when designing any experience, prototyping is central to the design of smart things. From study sketches for paintings, to architectural models, to design thumbnails, prototypes help us see, feel, and refine ideas and experiences.

Starting from zero, this hands-on workshop explores prototyping digitally mediated physical experiences using a micro-controller and basic electronic components. You'll connect LEDs (lights), buttons, and other components, then write programs to make them work. Through this you’ll better understand the tools and process of designing and prototyping smart, connected products.

Important notes for attendees:

No programming or electronics experience is necessary, but this workshop does require a laptop (Mac/Windows), and a $5 materials fee. You can pay the fee when you register for Devsigner, or at the door. The actual cost to Devsigner is $25 per attendee, and we would like to thank Metal Toad for sponsoring the remaining cost to make this workshop possible.

Please Install Software Before Arriving

To make the most of our time (and, bandwidth), it’s best if you can install some software before you arrive.

For the workshop, we’ll be using the Trinket micro-controller from Adafruit. If you’ve heard of the wildly popular Arduino, the Trinket is much smaller, but uses the same software as the Arduino, called the Arduino IDE (Integrated Development Environment).

If you’re not a developer, this might sound daunting, but it’s really a lot like using InDesign, or any design software. The IDE just helps you design for a micro- controller. In fact, they call the process “sketching.”

  1. Locate the installation instructions on the Adafruit website
  2. Follow the “Easy Installation” instructions and download the Arduino version for your operating system.
  3. Confirm your installation by starting the Arduino IDE to ensure it launches. If you want to confirm your software actually works with the Trinket, find me (Bob) at the conference on Saturday and we can test it out.

If you have any problems or questions, feel free to contact me directly at: [email protected] or @robertgallup on Twitter.

Session Takeaways: 

By the end of this workshop you will have a basic understanding of micro-controllers and electronics, and how they can be used to prototype tangible digital experiences. You’ll be comfortable connecting electronic components, and programming like a wizard. And, you’ll come away with a kit of parts you can use to amaze friends and impress co-workers.

Robert Gallup
Robert Gallup

See. Think. Make. Bob has spent his career doing these at the intersection of people, design, and technology. From leading the team that shipped Fury3, Microsoft’s first PC game for Windows 95 to physical prototyping for wearable smart products, Bob has tackled an eclectic mix of early stage projects from computer games, to automobile computers, online education platforms, and smart things. Bob is currently the founder/CEO at XOBXOB, which is focused on seeing, thinking, and making in the rapidly emerging world where everything is connected. LinkedIn: Twitter: @robertgallup.