MP2 High-Low Tech

Posted: Thursday, February 12
Due: Thursday, March 5 (you will be demonstrating your project in class)
New Deadline: Because of UMD closures due to inclement weather, this assignment is now due Tuesday, March 10th.

What To Do

In this assignment, your goal is to rethink the materiality of computing and interaction. You must make a primary input device (e.g., paperjoystick) or a primary output device (e.g., ambient display) using low-tech materials such as paper, conductive paint, play-dough, tape, water, food, etc. The primary interactivity must be mediated by the low-tech material (i.e., the low-tech material cannot be superfluous to your design, it must be directly integrated). There is a ton of cardboard and other low-tech prototyping material in the HCIL Hackerspace (and just outside it).

As with all mini-projects, you should work on MP2 with a partner. As a reminder, you cannot have the same partner for MP2 that you had for MP1. You do not have to have a partner for MP2 but it is strong encouraged.
Some inspirational projects:

Some inspirational research projects:

Some inspirational projects from the Spring 2014 offering:

Material Ideas, Some How-Tos, and Example Projects

Leah Buechley's High-Low Tech Group has a nice listing of material sources for electronic and conventional textiles, conductive inks and paper, and other materials. Browse her list and the list below and be inspired!

Paper Circuits


Conductive Paint


Thermochromatic Paint

Related Accessories
  • Thermoelectric Cooler, from SparkFun. This might be useful for cooling the heated material pigment. (Disclaimer: I'm not sure about that. I assume that it may not help a whole lot, but it would be an interesting exploration.)
  • Heating Pad, from SparkFun. Like the thermoelectric cooler, this heating pad might possibly be used to heat the thermochromatic pigment to change its color. (Disclaimer: I'm not sure that this would work, either. You'll have to do some research to make sure it can be used to heat the pigment.)



  • Information Percolator, Jeremy Heiner, Scott Hudson, and Kenichiro Tanaka, UIST'99
  • The UIST 2013 Student Innovation Contest (link) provided teams with 8 miniature water pumps and a PumpSpark controller to programatically shoot streams of water up to ~1 meter in the air. To win the contest, students had to design and create their own fully interactive water-based systems that reacted in real-time to human input. Using water (or other fluids or gases) is a new(ish) emerging space in HCI called Fluidic User Interfaces (FUIs). Below are some of the top performing teams:
    • Water Pong, Hesham Omran, Ignacio Avellino, Jan Zimmermann
    • XBox H2O: A Water Controlled Sliding Game, Ben Jorissen, Raf Ramkers, Thomas Stockx, Sean Tan
    • Fillagio in Action, Michael Crabb, Sebastian Stein, Kris Zutis


Conductive Dough

Conductive Textiles

Conductive Glue

Conductive Everything

Laser Cutting Fabrication

Note: the HCIL Hackerspace does not have a laser cutter. The below references are for your own edification.

Assignment Deliverables
The assignment deliverables are due before lecture begins.
  • Utilize github to store and post your code. This should be publicly viewable and accessible. You are welcome to use any license you like on the code itself (including no license at all--e.g., None). When you use other people's code, you must cite your source--even if it's just a blog post and a small snippet. I believe github provides academic accounts (for additional features, please check the website).

  • Post a Wiki write-up to your own wiki subpage on this wiki (example).

  • Upload a video demoing your submission to YouTube. You should include the link to the YouTube video in your Wikipage. Please take the video creation process seriously--video is one of the best forms to portray the interactivity and sheer awesomeness of your inventions. I hope that you create something you would feel proud of to show your friends or family.

  • Presentation/demo. On Thursday, March 5 Tuesday, March 10th, we'll have a presentation/demo day. We will dedicate the whole 75 minutes to this (if not more!). It's up to you how you want to present your work--you could do a live demo for the class, play all or part of your video, show slides, or do an interpretive dance. After all presentations are complete, we'll use the remaining time in the class to interact with each others demos.

Assignment Grading and Rubric

Most, if not all, assignments in this class will be graded on novelty, aesthetic, fun, creativity, technical sophistication, and engagement. All assignments (including the project) will be peer-reviewed by everyone in the class including me using this feedback form (link). We will provide constructive feedback and new ideas and we will rank our favorite projects. The top team (or maybe top two teams) will receive an award and will have the opportunity to present at the HCIL Symposium at the end of the year.

You must also fill out a partner evaluation form (aka a peer assessment form). This is due March 12th. I expect that this should take you ~15 minutes. Please be reflective, thoughtful, and honest about your own performance and that of your partner. Note: this is a private evaluation and your responses will not be shared.

In-Class Presentations/Demos

You must fill out this Peer Feedback Form during the presentations/demos and submit it before the end of the day. Do not forget to also fill out this partner evaluation form due March 12th before class. We will present today in the order listed in the Completed Assignments starting with City Light from Windmills.

Completed Assignments

As before, please list your completed assignments below.

1. City Light from Windmills

Seokbin Kang and Philip Dasler
City Light from Windmills is a interactive and visual art that displays how our city turns up the lights with electricity generated by windmills. The user can generate electricity by blowing windmills and a group of buildings linked to each windmill turn up their light. This work is not only an artistic arrangement of LEDs(high-tech) and metallic windmills(low-tech) but also an informative drawing.

2. FlashGear

Jonggi Hong and Karthik Badam
FlashGear is a hand-cranked LED display device. It is inspired by the vintage projectors that work by rotating a crank. FlashGear has two LED strips and a gyroscope connected to gears that can be rotated. This device can flash color images (of small resolutions).

3. Fireball

Brian Burbach and Beth McNany
Fireball is a plastic ball with an LED display which acts as dice for tabletop games. It uses an accelerometer to detect when the ball is moving and stopped, can be programmed with any distribution, and has a button to allow the user to change the number of dice rolled.

4. Weather Tree

Majeed Kazemitabaar and Luis Santos
Weather Tree is an exploration into both weather and time awareness without full exposure to outside climate.

5. Fabric Display

I’ve been curious if fabrics can be used for display or interface? If it works, it can impact our lifestyle because fabrics are everywhere in our life.