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CSC8610 : Physical Prototyping

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Nick Taylor
  • Owning School: Computing
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


This module aims to provide students with a practical introduction to, and skills and experience in, the design and physical prototyping of interactive products. Increasingly, smart products and IoT devices require human-centred design to be successful. Product innovation and design requires the HCI professional to have a range of physical prototyping skills. This module will introduce students to a range of equipment and tooling available in most modern maker spaces, for example, basic wood-working and machining tools, laser cutters, and 3D printers. Alongside this, students will learn to use common open source electronics microprocessor platforms (and programming environments), to programme sensors, actuators and network connectivity to make physically interactive prototypes. The module will give students experience in designing, fabricating and documenting their own interactive product.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module will be delivered through a series of online tutorials and exercises, practical inductions and skills training sessions including access to our maker space/workshop, class and small group discussions and directed reading.

Indicative topics to be addressed through the course materials, include:

1.       Design sketching and ideation
2.       Workshop skills e.g. basic workshop tooling; laser cutting; 3D printing
3.       Prototyping materials and mediums
4.       Electronic prototyping kits
5.       Programming for microprocessors
6.       Sensors and actuators
7.       Making things talk
8.       Design documentation
9.       Research-through-design

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion170:0070:00Practical project completion. Non synchronous.
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading32:006:00Reading assigned materials. Non synchronous.
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities120:306:00Online video tutorials for practical design skills. Non synchronous.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching32:006:00Class-based presentation and discussion of assigned reading. PIP (with potential for online synchron
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops62:0012:00Practical classes/ learning workshop skills in the marker space and the flat teaching space. PIP.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

This module focuses on practical skills in prototyping using a common microprocessor platform and associated sensor, actuator and networking components and an introduction to tools and techniques of the maker space. Alongside physical and software-based ‘making’ skills there will be practice in design documentation to enhance the research-through-design skills required for successfully communicating physical design and prototyping work. Classes will be formed of video-based tutorials for prototyping skills using microprocessor kits and in class practical work, alongside directed reading and discussion. All students will have time in the workshop for tuition with maker space equipment.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Design/Creative proj2M100Practical individual design project responding to a brief – documented as an annotated portfolio and associated physical prototype
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Oral Presentation2MGroup work for a ‘design crit’ to demonstrate emerging design work. Feedback to be given on emerging ideas
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The module will require students to individually design and prototype an interactive product (physical prototype), demonstrating the skills they have learned through the course. They will do this responding to a brief, but will have significant opportunity to shape their design response in line with their personal interests. Design work produced will be documented in the form of an annotated portfolio, which alongside the physical prototype will be submitted as a single ‘portfolio’ submission, as the summative evaluation for the course. Design decision making and quality of documentation will be assessed through the annotated portfolio and build quality, reliability, and appropriate use of materials and equipment will be evaluated through presentation of the physical prototype. Students will also take part in a virtual group ‘design crit’, mid-module, in which they will receive feedback on their emerging ideas, delivered in a supportive group context – to help them develop their thinking – this element forms the formative assessment component of the module.

Reading Lists