Project pitch and proposal

In this assignment you will finalize your project idea. This is a 2-part assignment: you will post your project proposal to the blog, and you will pitch your idea in class.

Project pitch (4 minutes in class)
You will have four minutes to pitch your idea to the class. You can use any format you want (slides, skit, poster, video, etc.). Your goal is to convince the class that your project is a good idea. Since you only have 4 minutes, you have to succinctly explain:

  • The project narrative, the big vision, problem or opportunity (one of your storyboards might be a starting point for this)
  • Why your idea is original (show similar work and explain why yours is different)
  • What impact your project will have on people, ethics, environment, culture
  • Your proposed prototype (what you plan to build)

Project proposal
In addition to the pitch, write a more detailed project proposal for the class blog. At the very least, include the following:

  • motivation (similar to the pitch, describe what problem, research question, or opportunity your project addresses)
  • related work (do a quick search to see if other projects have tried to address a similar topic; find 2-3 similar projects)
  • your idea (what you plan to build, who will use it, where it will be used, and why it’s different from existing work)
  • a discussion of the impact your project will have on people, ethics, environment, culture (1-2 paragraphs)
  • implementation (how you plan to implement your idea)
  • parts list (a tentative list of components you might use for this project)
  • timeline and responsibilities of each group member. The timeline must include what milestones you hope to meet each week leading up to the deadline.

Post your project proposal on the class blog under the “project proposal” category.

The proposal posted on the blog is worth 6 points
1 point for describing your project  motivation
1 point for describing related work
1 point for describing your project idea
1 point for including a parts list and implementation details in your proposal
1 point for the the discussion of your project impact
1 point for project timeline and group responsibilities

The in-class pitch is worth 4 points and counts towards your final project grade
4 points for clearly presenting your idea in class

Arduino + Max MSP

In this skills review assignment, you will interface Arduino with Max MSP. Refer to the MAX MSP Lecture Materials by Assegid Kidane.

Create a input (switch, potentiometer, capacitive sensor, or one of the digital sensors we used—soil moisture sensor or air quality sensor) to control an output in Max MSP. For example, you might create a button or switch that controls the volume of an audio file or the playback speed of a video file. Or you might use capacitive sensing to create an interactive surface that produces different sounds based on human gestures.

Take a video of your project and document it under the “Max MSP” category.

This assignment is worth 4 points
2 points for creating an input that controls some output in MaxMSP
1 point for clear documentation that includes a description of how you made your project
1 point if your idea is fun/creative
1 bonus point if your project somehow relates to biodesign (e.g., you use an organic biomaterial or engage the audience with biodesign, biology, or biomimicry in some way).

Advanced sensing

In this assignment, you will explore one of the more advanced sensors and Arduino. You will work with the Sparkfun conductivity kit or the Sparkfun muscle sensor.

You will use class time to research your sensor and figure out how to use it with the Arduino platform. This advanced hands-on day should hopefully help you build more skills for your final project.

While you’re not required to use these more advanced sensors in your final project, these sensors could provide interesting opportunities for bio-electronic interfaces.

Since most of this assignment will be done in-class, your only requirement is to demonstrate that you were able to get your sensor to work.  However, you will get bonus points for illustrating a use-case scenario for the sensor.

Document your progress on the class blog under the “advanced-sensing” category. Include a photo or video, a diagram, and a brief description (2-3 sentences).

This assignment is worth 4 points, everyone in the group will get the same grade

3 points for demonstrating that you got your sensor to work
1 point for clear documentation of how you hooked up your sensor and your code
1 bonus point if your prototype demonstrates a creative use-case scenario for your sensor

Telling stories

A storyboard is a low fidelity visual representation of your idea where steps or actions are represented by panels, like a comic book. The goal is to flesh out scenarios where your project ideas might be used. Your storyboards will effectively communicate these scenarios.

In this assignment, you will pick your top 3 project ideas and create a storyboard for each one.

Some guidelines:

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Make a cartoon-like series of scenes (this is not polished art!)
  3. Do not commit to a technology or a UI
  4. Use 3-6 frames to represent each idea
  5. Do not use too much text

Take a picture of each of your storyboards and upload it to the class blog under the “storyboards” category. Bring all of your storyboards to class on Monday

This assignment is worth 4 points
3 points for posting a picture of your storyboards on the class blog
1 point for bringing all your storyboards to class


In this assignment you will come up with 20 ideas for your final project. You will think of 5 project ideas for each of the Biodesign themes we discussed in class so far (4 themes, total of 20). That’s right, I said 20, and these are due by the beginning of class on Monday (March 13)! You can do it!!

The Biodesign themes we’ve discussed so far include:

Kombucha, fashion, food science
Immune system, personal genetics, cancer
Sensing, public health
DIYbio, DIY incubator

You have to come up with 5 ideas for each theme. Other than that, they can be anything. Do not worry about what’s realistic or possible. Just go for breadth! Write or sketch/draw each idea on a separate post-it note. Each note can be just a few words, but be specific. For example:

  • wearable computing on kombucha skin
  • a plant that digests plastic
  • a sensor that shows the overall health of a building

Do not get stuck on one specific idea (do not submit 25 ideas that all sound like this):

  • air quality sensing on a bike
  • air quality on a watch
  • air quality sensing on a shirt

Lay out your 20 post-its on a table, take a picture and upload it to the class blog under the “brainstorming” category. Bring all of your post-its to class on Monday!

This assignment is worth 4 points
3 points for posting a picture of your ideas on the class blog
1 point for brining all your post-its to class

Look, ask, learn, try

The goal of this assignment to conduct basic observations of a biology context and learn about the people, contexts, and existing tools in this area.

The final project for this class is to prototype a bio-electronic interface. Think about how technology might interface with biology in the next 10 years and create a prototype that demonstrates your vision. Your project will will use the tangible interaction techniques from this class to engage with biological processes. Your project can interface with any aspect of biology, including:

organic inputs into digital systems—you might consider systems where biological processes serve as inputs into digital systems. For instance, your project might monitor and/or report on organic processes (e.g., citizen science tools for monitoring environmental factors such as air, soil, or water quality). Handheld, wearable, or public sensors would reveal aspects of the biological world.

digital inputs into organic systems—complimentary to the above, you might think about how digital devices could serve as inputs into organic systems. For example, you might consider digital technologies that alter the biological world, by, for example, providing nutrients or care.

creatively interfacing with food —tangible interaction might engage with food-specific processes such as fermentation, gardening, or scientifically-oriented meal preparation (e.g., molecular gastronomy). Think about how (bio)technology might shape the future of urban gardens, supermarkets, restaurants, or kitchens.

bio-electronic materials—your explorations might focus on creating a new materials that combine organic and digital components. You might think about incorporating organic materials into textiles (e.g., composites of regular and conductive thread and organic fibers, similar to the natto actuation paper); or developing materials that mimic biological activity (similar to the 3D printing hair paper).

bio-electronic interfaces and humans—your project might explore how biotechnology might interface with human beings. You can think about the future of genetic testing, insertable devices, or medical applications.

To prepare for the final project, this assignment asks you to conduct some basic field observations for your final project.

Pick a biology setting that will provide context, inspiration, or a problem space for your project. If this setting is not public, make sure to get permission from the people involved. Apply IDEO’s look, ask, try, learn methods:

look: what are people doing and saying?
ask: elicit feedback or participation from someone
try: simulate or participate in an activity yourself
learn: identify ‘thoughtless acts’, patterns, problems, or opportunities. you can learn from what you observed in context, or you might do a quick search to find related information online.

Write up your observations and notes. Describe where you went, what you saw, asked, tried, and learned. Include photographs or sketches of what happened.

Upload your writeup to the class blog under the “field observation” category.

This assignment is worth 4 points
1 point for describing  what you saw
1 point for describing what you asked
1 point for describing what you tried
1 point for describing what you learned

Include pictures and/or sketches!!

Sensing + LCD Displays

In this assignment you will use an environmental sensor and LCD display to create a responsive prototype.

You can use any of the air quality sensors we reviewed in class, or you can construct your own sensor from scratch. The only requirement is that your sensor reports on some condition in the environment (soil moisture, movement, pressure, conductivity, etc.)

Use an LCD display to output data from your sensor. The output displayed on the LCD should be clear to a non-expert (meaning, you are not simply printing numeric values read from your sensor). It should be clear from looking at the display what the environmental condition is and whether the sensor is reading high, low, or moderate values.

In your demo video, demonstrate a scenario where this sensor and display would be used in the real world.

Document your project on the class blog under the “sensors-displays” category. Include a photo or video, a diagram, and a brief description (2-3 sentences).

This assignment is worth 4 points, everyone in the group will get the same grade

1 point for using an environmental sensor
1 point for using an LCD display
1 point for clear documentation that includes a video and description of how you made your project
1 point if your prototype is fun/creative