Designing experienceable systems by using microcontroller based platforms
Editor: John Lawlor, Ger Reilly, Robert Simpson, Michael Ring, Ahmed Kovacevic, Mark McGrath, William Ion, David Tormey, Erik Bohemia, Chris McMahon, Brian Parkinson
Author: De Grande, Guido; Baelus, Chris; De Roeck, Dries; Van Campenhout, Lukas
Institution: Artesis University College, Belgium
Section: Technology in Design Education
Industrial and product designers have increased access to various microcontroller based electronic platforms to test system design and interaction design ideas. A well known example of such a platform is the Arduino environment, which offers both hardware and software tools to create prototypes. The main reason why the Arduino platform has gained popularity is the fact that the software is open source and free of cost. Additionally, the hardware is not expensive and the used electronic components are widely available. Besides the tools, there is a large community using and extending the platform. This results in the creation of a large amount of peripheral equipment that can be connected directly to the boards and specific code libraries. Both hardware equipment and software codes are accessible for people who lack specific programming knowledge. This paper describes a study that took place during the course "designing electronic products" in the department of Product Development at the Faculty of Design Sciences in Antwerp. Students were given the assignment to develop a sort of immaterial information transfer between two persons by using the Arduino board as a prototyping platform. The eventual goal was to make a functional prototype, enabling students to test the interaction of a digital product, and refine it. The 1st year master students had no prior course in programming in the Arduino (Wiring) language, a derivative of the widely used C language. The only background on electronics was given in the course âcomponents of electronic productsâ in the 3rd year bachelor. The objective of the research was to see how fast an application can be written and tested without any prior knowledge of hardware or software. The students worked in groups of three to finish their assignment during a series of five twohour classes. After the presentation of their design a questionnaire had to be filled in. This questionnaire included questions concerning their prior knowledge of any programming language, their knowledge of the used platform and their knowledge of sensors, displays ... They were also asked whether they would use the platform for future projects in their studies and if, by using this platform, the design of electronic products is better understood. The final goal of this questionnaire was to know if introducing the Arduino platform in the bachelor years is a possibility for replacing theoretical courses by practical competences.