Full Syllabus

Responsive Mobile Environments Syllabus

Basic Course information

This course is part of the Integrative Design, Arts, and Technology program at Carnegie Mellon University and makes use of the new IDeATe@Hunt Collaborative Making Facility in the lower level of Hunt Library.

This course is an IDeATe collaborative studio as part of the IDeATe Intelligent Environments or Physical Computing minor and concentration offerings.

Please note that there will be lab usage and materials fees associated with this course, and that students will be required to follow the IDeATe@Hunt policies.

Catalog Description

Embedded, connected and mobile computing combine to create powerful platforms for sensing human behavior and personalizing experiences in situated spaces. Creating intelligent, meaningful, and opportune feedback to provide serendipitous support for the people and activities within these spaces still remains an important problem. Students will seek creative solutions to this challenge in this hands-on introduction to real-time interactive environments. The course will introduce foundational theories, methods and techniques that range across the aesthetic, the human-centered and the technical. Students will apply this knowledge by working in teams to collaborative prototype a responsive environment which adapts in real-time to activities within it. In these teams, students will work across disciplines to integrate technical and aesthetic frameworks for sensing, analysis and feedback of human activity in intelligent and augmented spaces.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this course a student should:

A. Domain Knowledge

B. Practical Skills

C. Prototyping

D. Collaboration


This course requires students to have taken the IDeATe Physical Computing Portal Course, however, students with appropriate prior skills and/or experience can be admitted with instructor permission.

Instructional Methods

Classes will involve lectures, labs, hands-on tutorials, discussions, critique sessions and workshops. Students will participate in and lead class discussion/presentations.

Course Structure

The course will meet each Tuesday and Thursday, 14.30PM-16.20PM in the IDeATe Physical Computing Studio HL A10 (Hunt Basement).

This 15-week course will introduce students to responsive mobile environments. Iteratively, introducing students to the idea of responsive mobile environments, the first half of the semester will tour these three facets of intelligent spaces through readings, applied explorations and guest lectures. The second half of the semester will be organized as a large scale applied and collaborative project.

Each year will have a specific theme or focus to ground both the exploration and application phase. The theme for 2017 will be the exploration of human memory and how it can be supported, augmented, enhanced and altered through computing.

Exploration (8 weeks)

Introductions: _Lays the foundations for the course.__ Mini-assignments will be used to: interview course participants, identify constraints, open questions, challenges, and assumptions and find opportunities for investigation.

Investigations: A series of small collaborative exercises that build towards a bigger vision. The format is 2-week rapid explorations of a theme, idea or theory, following four stages: Ideation-Research-Build-Reflect

Fusion/Reflection: Develops a single shared brief for a scale prototype._ A week of reflection_ where the class as a whole will review design explorations and synthesize a common vision for a large collaborative prototype.

During this time:

Each week will offer:

  1. Concepts: an introduction to concepts and considerations surrounding the Internet of things through readings, lectures, and in-class discussion
  2. Skills: labs will develop students skills in preparing responsive mobile environments and cover hardware, software, electronics and other lab skills.
  3. Applied Critique: Concepts and Skills will be applied in short and focused weekly projects which will then be critically examined through group critique.

Students will complete a bi-weekly creative exercise to develop conceptual understanding, refine and acquire skills and receive feedback on their ideas. Students will also be expected to complete a report on a topic of interest to them and relating to responsive mobile environments to demonstrate their review and understanding of the space.

Application (4-5 weeks)

The second half of the semester, teams will work together to identify a prospective idea for a responsive mobile environment of the future, prepare a working prototype and deliver supporting process and outcome documentation.

All students will work on the same problem and subdivide into groups based on skill, interest and needs. Collectively the students will realize a series of integrated components that satisfy needs across the layers of human, space and world in a dynamic, connected solution.

For the outcome students will prepare:

For this phase, students will work in collaborative teams and will be tasked with weekly deliverables towards a working prototype. In-class times will be used to facilitate instructor feedback, critique sessions and group meetings. Critiques with external guests will also be scheduled as a mid-point and final review of outcomes.


To facilitate marking all students are expected to prepare project pages on the IDeATe Gallery which document the assigned projects and where regular assignments are posted (see http://rme2018.slack.com) All work must be submitted or presented by the deadline. Late work will not be accepted.

This course will assign a mixture of independent and group based projects. For independent projects, all work submitted must represent a distinct product by that individual and may not be produced in partnership with any peer within the class. Group projects allow for collaboration but expect that all members contribute to the final work equally. Work submitted for assessment in one class may not be submitted in full or in part for assessment in a second class.

Please visit the section on grading for a full description.

Grading Policy

Final grades for the course will be broken down as follows:

Creative Project Grading (including Final Project)

  1. 60% - Merit of the creative outcome

  2. 20% - Description of process (ideation, iteration, etc.)

  3. 20% - Documentation of the outcome (code, video, circuit diagrams, repeatability, etc.)

Grading Standards / Rubric

Grading Scale

The grading scale for the course is as follows:

Process Documentation

Students are expected to maintain good documentation of their work process throughout the course. It is recommended that all students should maintain a journal (notebook, blog, etc) and regularly photograph (or video) their creative work as it is being prepared. Students will be asked to share this documentation with the instructor as part of regular assignments and graded outcomes.

Hardware and Software

We will cover a diverse array of software and hardware relevant to the Internet of Things. While preferred hardware and software will be introduced during the labs and tutorials, students are free to use any software or hardware they wish to complete assignments. Students may use Eagle, Fritzing, Rhino, Grasshopper, Solidworks, Arduino, Python (for rPi), Processing, Pure Data, openframeworks + ofxiOS, iOS SDK, etc.

Required Texts

There are no required texts for this class. Regular readings will be assigned on the topic. Digital and photocopied reading/viewing material will be provided by the instructor and available on the course webpage.

Facilities and Lab Use

The course will use the IDeATe Physical Computing Studio in Hunt Library. Students are required to comply with the policies and procedures for the IDeaTe facilities (see: http://ideate.andrew.cmu.edu/category/policy-proc/)

The studio is a shared space used by your colleagues and by other classes. The maintenance of the studio is the responsibility of the students i.e. students should clean up the studio as they use it and leave it in good working condition for others.

The studio provides some short term lending of parts and consumable electronic components for use in student projects. These are available for reasonable use only and should not be abused.

For some of the assignments, students maybe be required to use specific equipment, hardware or software. All required equipment (hardware, components, etc.) will be made available for these assignments (see below). Additional and advanced hardware and components may be accessed in the Physical Computing Studio and in the IDeATe equipment lending pool which is open 7 days a week in the basement of Hunt Library. Required hardware (laptops, cameras, peripherals) may be checked out on request. If particular equipment is needed but is not available in the Studio or the Equipment Lending Library, let the instructor know.

Lab Fee

There are no fees associated with this course. Students will be expected to cover their project costs individually. Please review the resource fee and use information in detail

Data Loss

Students are responsible for their own work. Work lost to due computer error, portable media error, or personal error is the responsibility of the student and will not be an excuse for late or missing work. At the end of the semester all students may be required to submit all work incl. source code, process documentation, etc. Do not discard original files of any assignment and the use of github or other source management solutions is recommended.


Students are expected to attend all classes. During class times, students are expected to give their full attention to the class materials, discussions and seminars. Students found to be consulting non-class related material, using their mobile phone or engaged in social networking will be immediately deemed absent.

If you need to miss a class for any reason, inform the instructor before the class if possible, and/or after the missed class. More than one unexcused absence will adversely affect your effort grade (see section on grading). In no case can a student expect to receive a passing grade without regular attendance and participation in class.


Students must notify faculty in advance of planned absence for religious holiday or school-related event (i.e. varsity sports trip). If you have an unplanned absence for medical or personal reasons, let the faculty know of your situation as soon as possible. In case of an extended absence for medical or personal reasons, contact the Senior Academic Advisor by mail, e-mail or phone, who will notify the appropriate faculty. Faculty reserve the right to request a formal document verifying a medical excuse.

Academic Integrity

Academic Integrity is expected at all time. Carnegie Mellon has a established as well-defined policy on this subject which can be found at: http://www.cmu.edu/policies/documents/Academic%20Integrity.htm

It is the responsibility of the student to verse themselves with these policies. All necessary and appropriate sanctions will be issued to all parties involved with plagiarizing any and all course work. Plagiarism and any other form of academic dishonesty that is in violation with these policies will not be tolerated.