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Computational Craft Fall 2019

Overview and compendium of resources for Computational Craft course in the MFA Design + Tech program at Parsons School of Design. Full syllabus here.


PLEASE NOTE: You should bring your tools, materials, and components to EVERY class

Quick Links


This is in large part a materials-focused course. Some materials will be provided for example activities, but you are expected to purchase your own materials for assignments and projects based on your interests and needs.

  • All required and recommended supplies for the class can be found here.
  • Our class supplies can be found in locker #27 (see your email for the combination). If you take something out, please leave a note.
  • A database of materials (only some of which we have time to explore) can be found here
  • Again, you are expected to bring all materials and tools to every class.



All of these files are in the "resources" folder.

  • Materials. A humble database of conductive and smart materials.
  • Tutorials + Blogs. For learning and process.
  • People. People who are working with these tools, techniques, and materials.
  • Spaces. Places where people are working with these tools, techniques, and materials.
  • Publications. Books, academic papers, zines, etc.

At Parsons

Making Center


  • As of this fall, D12 will also have some machines available on the floor. Please treat these tools with the same respect you would treat your own.
  • We also are fortunate to have our very own Silhouette Vinyl Cutter in the class locker. Please review this tutorial before using it

Tutorials + Websites + People + Spaces

Please see this page until I port them over here.

Readings + Publications

Please see this page until I port them over here.


Craft is a practice underlying all cultures, unifying hand with mind, materials with tools, and high technology with low technology. Historically, craft is a means of communicating the knowledge, stories, and values of the individual and local community across generations. Likewise, technology has become our main form of mediated storytelling and contributes formatively to how we perceive ourselves.

The rise of DIY, open source, and Maker culture have contributed to a growing hybrid discipline that fuses craft and technology. It combines practices, materials, and tools from the fields of craft, electronics, textile and surface design, fiber art, and programming to explore new opportunities and possibilities of how we relate to ourselves, each other, and our world through technology. This emerging discipline has many names including computational craft, eTextiles, soft circuits, ePaper, electronic craft, wearable technology and fashion technology.

We will begin by looking at ways in which traditional crafting techniques can be interwoven with new materials like conductive ink, thread, fabric, and more to generate “soft” interfaces. During the second part of the course, we will explore actuators such as thermochromic ink, soft speakers, and shape memory alloys. Throughout the course, we will think critically about how utilizing these materials shapes our interactions with technology (e.g. why is a paper piano more whimsical than a knobbed midi interface or a traditional piano?), the design problems involved in customized sensor design for objects, surfaces, and the body, and embedding sustainable habits into our practice.

Over the course of the semester, we will examine the role of this field at the intersection of design, technology, traditional and contemporary culture, pulling in knowledge and processes from performance, architecture, education, fashion, product design, anthropology, sustainability, science fiction, and more. New materials give us the opportunity to explore new interactions between people and technology. The unexpected is our currency.

If you would like to escape the screen for the hand, this is a great opportunity.

Learning Outcomes

By the successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Materials Knowledge + Techniques - Develop a deeper understanding of these new materials and their affordances; Determine appropriate materials based on the project; Apply this knowledge to construct aesthetic and functional computationally enhanced prototypes.
  • Electronics + Computing - Gain a basic understanding of electricity and microcontrollers; Build a working knowledge of embedded computing techniques and develop the ability to translate these techniques to different scales.
  • Design Thinking + Process - Demonstrate the ability to integrate the design process into work; Able to find material / electronic solutions and integrate them into a larger project; Documents extensively and shares work online.
  • Research Methodology - Use different lenses and frameworks to approach the design process and user research. We will pull from elements from narrative construction and storytelling, situational design, craft research, game design, and more.

Assessable Tasks

The course is structured as a series of workshops, each with an in class activity and outside assignment. These activities and assignments are designed for you to enhance your technical understanding through peer to peer learning, explore materials and their appropriate (or inappropriate) usage, and apply both through rapid prototyping. The final project will assess your overall knowledge and growth from an integrated, holistic approach.

You will have 2 major projects. We will discuss all of these at length, but here is the short overview:

  1. Midterm Project: You will design a light giving object with at least two states that responds to a narrative or metaphor. No wires allowed.
  2. Final Project: For the final project you will respond to a theme or question. It is due the last day of class. Final documentation will be due a few days after.

At certain points in the semester, we will reflect on the direction of the course as a whole class to discuss things that are not working or demand further exploration.

Evaluation and Final Grade Calculation

  • 35% Participation + Attendance
  • 40% Assignments (in and out of class) + Documentation*
  • 25% Major Projects: Midterm (10%) + Final (15%)

TOTAL 100%

Please note that blog posts are a larger percentage of your grade than major projects

A Note on Grading We will go through each deliverable as a class to set clear expectations. Here is the big picture:

Participation + Attendance

This class will conform to New School attendance policy. Only three absences are allowed without special permission from the instructor; any more and you will be dropped from the class with a failing grade. Two late arrivals or two early departures will count as one absence. You will also find this a very difficult class to miss even once; extra effort will be required to catch up. When in doubt, communicate with me as early as possible about any special circumstances.

You should come ready to make. Much of class time will be spent workshopping in small groups or individually. When we are having a discussion or demo, your active participation is expected. Everyone should engage actively in class discussions and complete in-class activities. Working on any work outside of this course will not be tolerated.

Laptops should be closed when not needed and phones should be on silent. Specifically, I have no tolerance for inattention during student project presentations. A core principle of this program is peer feedback and I expect all of you to respect this.

Assignments + Documentation

You should bring all completed assignments (working or not!) to the next class. Weekly assignments should be documented and posted to TBD. Please see this page (forthcoming) outlining what a documentation post should include.

Major Projects

One goal of this course is creating a database of techniques for others to learn from. Extensive documentation is required for each project in the form of an Instructable or other appropriate platform. You are encouraged to work in groups for all projects. If you wish to combine one of these three projects with a deliverable for another course, you MUST ask me first. Failure to do so will result in point deduction. I am open to this, but it is imperative that we establish the goals of the project as they relate to each course.

University Policies


The university provides many resources to help students achieve academic and artistic excellence. These resources include:

  • The University (and associated) Libraries
  • The University Learning Center
  • University Disabilities Service

In keeping with the university’s policy of providing equal access for students with disabilities, any student with a disability who needs academic accommodations is welcome to meet with me privately. All conversations will be kept confidential. Students requesting any accommodations will also need to contact Student Disability Service (SDS). SDS will conduct an intake and, if appropriate, the Director will provide an academic accommodation notification letter for you to bring to me. At that point, I will review the letter with you and discuss these accommodations in relation to this course.

Grading Standards


A student’s final grades and GPA are calculated using a 4.0 scale.

  • A (4.0) - Work of exceptional quality, which often goes beyond the stated goals of the course
  • A- (3.7) - Work of very high quality
  • B+ (3.3) - Work of high quality that indicates higher than average abilities
  • B (3.0) - Very good work that satisfies the goals of the course
  • B- (2.7) - Good work
  • C+ (2.3) - Above-average work
  • C (2.0) - Average work that indicates an understanding of the course material; passable Satisfactory completion of a course is considered to be a grade of C or higher.
  • C- (1.7) - Passing work but below good academic standing
  • D (1.0) - Below-average work that indicates a student does not fully understand the assignments; Probation level though passing for credit
  • F (0.0) - Failure, no credit


  • A Work of exceptional quality
  • A- Work of high quality
  • B+ Very good work
  • B Good work; satisfies course requirements Satisfactory completion of a course is considered to be a grade of B or higher.
  • B- Below-average work
  • C+ Less than adequate work
  • C Well below average work
  • C- Poor work; lowest possible passing grade
  • F Failure
  • GM Grade missing for an individual
  • Grades of D are not used in graduate level courses.

Grade of W The grade of W may be issued by the Office of the Registrar to a student who officially withdraws from a course within the applicable deadline. There is no academic penalty, but the grade will appear on the student transcript. A grade of W may also be issued by an instructor to a graduate student (except at Parsons and Mannes) who has not completed course requirements nor arranged for an Incomplete.

Grade of Z The grade of Z is issued by an instructor to a student who has not attended or not completed all required work in a course but did not officially withdraw before the withdrawal deadline. It differs from an “F,” which would indicate that the student technically completed requirements but that the level of work did not qualify for a passing grade.

Grades of Incomplete The grade of I, or temporary incomplete, may be granted to a student under unusual and extenuating circumstances, such as when the student’s academic life is interrupted by a medical or personal emergency. This mark is not given automatically but only upon the student’s request and at the discretion of the instructor. A Request for Incomplete form must be completed and signed by student and instructor. The time allowed for completion of the work and removal of the “I” mark will be set by the instructor with the following limitations: [You should include one the following standards, depending on the level of your course].

Undergraduate students: Work must be completed no later than the seventh week of the following fall semester for spring or summer term incompletes and no later than the seventh week of the following spring semester for fall term incompletes. Grades of “I” not revised in the prescribed time will be recorded as a final grade of “F” by the Registrar’s Office.

Graduate students: Work must be completed no later than one year following the end of the class. Grades of “I” not revised in the prescribed time will be recorded as a final grade of “N” by the Registrar’s Office.

College, School, Program and Class Policies

A comprehensive overview of policy may be found under Policies: A to Z. Students are also encouraged to consult the Academic Catalog for Parsons.


Use of Canvas may be an important resource for this class. Students should check it for announcements before coming to class each week.

NOTE: We will be using GitHub as our primary source of information.

Electronic Devices

The use of electronic devices (phones, tablets, laptops, cameras, etc.) is permitted when the device is being used in relation to the course's work. All other uses are prohibited in the classroom and devices should be turned off before class starts. I have no tolerance for this, as mentioned above.


Students are responsible for all assignments, even if they are absent. Late assignments, failure to complete the assignments for class discussion and/or critique, and lack of preparedness for in-class discussions, presentations and/or critiques will jeopardize your successful completion of this course.

Active Participation and Attendance

Class participation is an essential part of class and includes: keeping up with reading, assignments, projects, contributing meaningfully to class discussions, active participation in group work, and coming to class regularly and on time.

Parsons’ attendance guidelines were developed to encourage students’ success in all aspects of their academic programs. Full participation is essential to the successful completion of coursework and enhances the quality of the educational experience for all, particularly in courses where group work is integral; thus, Parsons promotes high levels of attendance. Students are expected to attend classes regularly and promptly and in compliance with the standards stated in this course syllabus.

While attendance is just one aspect of active participation, absence from a significant portion of class time may prevent the successful attainment of course objectives. A significant portion of class time is generally defined as the equivalent of three weeks, or 20%, of class time. Lateness or early departure from class may be recorded as one full absence. Students may be asked to withdraw from a course if habitual absenteeism or tardiness has a negative impact on the class environment.

I will assess each student’s performance against all of the assessment criteria in determining your final grade.

Academic Honesty and Integrity

Compromising your academic integrity may lead to serious consequences, including (but not limited to) one or more of the following: failure of the assignment, failure of the course, academic warning, disciplinary probation, suspension from the university, or dismissal from the university.

Students are responsible for understanding the University’s policy on academic honesty and integrity and must make use of proper citations of sources for writing papers, creating, presenting, and performing their work, taking examinations, and doing research. It is the responsibility of students to learn the procedures specific to their discipline for correctly and appropriately differentiating their own work from that of others. The full text of the policy, including adjudication procedures, is found on the university website under Policies: A to Z. Resources regarding what plagiarism is and how to avoid it can be found on the Learning Center’s website.

The New School views “academic honesty and integrity” as the duty of every member of an academic community to claim authorship for his or her own work and only for that work, and to recognize the contributions of others accurately and completely. This obligation is fundamental to the integrity of intellectual debate, and creative and academic pursuits. Academic honesty and integrity includes accurate use of quotations, as well as appropriate and explicit citation of sources in instances of paraphrasing and describing ideas, or reporting on research findings or any aspect of the work of others (including that of faculty members and other students). Academic dishonesty results from infractions of this “accurate use”. The standards of academic honesty and integrity, and citation of sources, apply to all forms of academic work, including submissions of drafts of final papers or projects. All members of the University community are expected to conduct themselves in accord with the standards of academic honesty and integrity. Please see the complete policy in the Parsons Catalog.

Intellectual Property Rights

The New School (the "university") seeks to encourage creativity and invention among its faculty members and students. In doing so, the University affirms its traditional commitment to the personal ownership by its faculty members and students of Intellectual Property Rights in works they create. The complete policy governing Intellectual Property Rights may be seen on the university website, on the Provost’s page.


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