Physical computing @ cmu ideate website

An online website for CMU IDeATe's Physical Computing program. At present, I am designing the component pages which will be paired with an educative card deck in order to support student learning and instructor teaching of electronic components and circuitry. Funded by the National Science Foundation, as part of the Smart Spaces for Making research project.

Deployed in CMU's 99-355 Intro to Arduino course, we will investigate how this tool impacts student learning and professor instruction in maker-based classes, especially within a remote context.

Role: Project Lead & Lead Designer
Time Frame —
Skills —
Design Systems
Design Research
Advisors —
Marti Louw
Daragh Byrne
Robert Zacharias
The purpose of the online component pages is to help students access guidance relevant to chosen components and the technical development of their project work. The page addresses the challenges of help-seeking in remote contexts. Although many online forums exist to support electronic help seeking, they are diverse, scattered assemblages. An instructor-managed web catalog is curated for novices, their information needs and anticipated projects.
This section reiterates the information found on the MakerCard and offers a more extensive description on the component's functionality.
how it works
Many students are not knowledgable of the inner-workings of the components they are working with. This can lead to programming and circuitry issues during implementation. This section aims to help students understand bit-by-bit how their component functions as a circuit of its own.
STARTER CODE + connection
A hotly requested feature by previous students of the course; Starter connections offer students a clear starting point for utilizing the basic mechanics of the component. Students can also submit a tutorial of their own for review.
HAVE A Question
or a TIP?
These sections encourage students to ask questions and offer tips that will be shared with the rest of the community. Through this feature, we hope to connect students of Physical Computing courses (past and present) and foster a greater sense of community.
Students can dive deeper into the component and relating topics via resources linked by the instructor. Students can also submit resources for review.
I created a service blueprint to organize all the various touch-points and components involved in the MakerCard system. It was also for Zach, the instructor, to understand what responsibilities he would have in managing the back-end of the system.
I observed the online search paths of 5 students as they conducted researched during their project planning phase. Coupled with a short interview after, I learned that many students turned to Google as their primary resource for learning about components outside of class. However, they often found it tedious to scour through numerous web results and interpret information aimed at those more experienced with electronics.
The course is usually set in the Physical Computing Lab, where students can freely work and directly access the facility’s wide selection of electronic components. Due to remote conditions, however, most students attend class with a setup consisting of a desk, a laptop or computer, and their course kit.
1. Student exploration is limited to the components found in their course kit.

2. Detailed learning about components are reliant on the instructor and/or unstructured online resources.

3. Remote learning isolates and individualizes the student experience of a traditionally collaborative subject.
Based on my conversations with Zach and several other instructors of the Physical Computing department, I wireframed several iterations of the electronic component page.
I tested my initial prototype with 5 past students of the Intro to Arduino and Intro to Physical Computing courses.

I wanted to know what features of the website would have be most useful to them had they been available to them. This helped me understand which sections of the site to have the dev team prioritize and helped me uncover any kinks in my design.
With the website in development, I plan on making design specifications for a mobile-friendly site.

MakerCards is being submitted to DIS2021! Check back soon for the full paper.