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Unit of study_

DECO1013: Physical Computing

This unit introduces students to the principles of physical computing and its application in interaction design projects. This includes conceptualising computer-based implementations of product interfaces using hardware platforms such as Arduinos or littleBits, for prototyping physical computing interfaces. It introduces the core concepts of physical prototyping, basic electronic concepts, hardware programming, as well as aesthetic issues in product design. The unit covers: prototyping techniques for physical user interfaces, methods of programming and assessing interactive products, product design techniques, especially in relation to interactive contexts, and awareness of issues of aesthetics in physical computing interfaces.


Academic unit Design Lab
Unit code DECO1013
Unit name Physical Computing
Session, year
Semester 2, 2020
Attendance mode Normal day
Location Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney
Credit points 6

Enrolment rules

(DECO1006 or DECO2016) and DECO1012
Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff and contact details

Coordinator Phillip Gough,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Design Journal
Due date: 27 Nov 2020 at 23:59
5-10 Pages
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4
Assignment Concept proposal
10% Week 05
Due date: 21 Sep 2020 at 23:59
2 pages
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2
Presentation Low-fidelity prototype
Oral presentation
30% Week 07
Due date: 16 Oct 2020 at 23:59
3 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO5 LO4
Presentation Interactive Prototype
30% Week 12
Due date: 20 Nov 2020 at 23:59
5 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO4 LO3
  • Concept proposal: Students are required to submit a concept proposal for their motion-activated product. This will be made up of research and concept description. The proposal should include research on existing product designs. The concept description should include a defined solution to a design problem that has been identified through research.
  • Low-fidelity prototype: Students are required to build a low-fidelity prototype of their motion-activated device. It will be the basis for the final assignment. This assignment will be presented during the tutorial in the form of a short, hands-on demonstration. This will require that you demonstrate a working prototype to the tutors, who will interact with the device.
  • Interactive, motion-activated prototype: Students are required to build a working prototype of the design proposed in assignment two. The prototype will be a 1:1 scale, based on the BBC Micro:bit platform, and battery powered. The motion-activated prototype will incorporate the 3D model from DECO1008, requiring students to use digital fabrication techniques to design an enclosure to house the physical computing components.
  • Motion-activated prototype documentation and exhibition: Students are required to document and exhibit their interactive motion activated prototype. This will include producing a video to be included in the physical computing showcase.

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas. 

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

Work of outstanding quality, demonstrating mastery of the learning outcomes
assessed. The work shows significant innovation, experimentation, critical
analysis, synthesis, insight, creativity, and/or exceptional skill.


75 - 84

Work of excellent quality, demonstrating a sound grasp of the learning outcomes
assessed. The work shows innovation, experimentation, critical analysis,
synthesis, insight, creativity, and/or superior skill.


65 - 74

Work of good quality, demonstrating more than satisfactory achievement of the
learning outcomes assessed, or work of excellent quality for a majority of the
learning outcomes assessed.


50 - 64

Work demonstrating satisfactory achievement of the learning outcomes


0 - 49

Work that does demonstrates an attempt at, but not satisfactory achievement of,
one or more of the learning outcomes assessed. No submission, or work that shows a lack of understanding of requirements and learning outcomes assessed.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Special consideration

If you experience short-term circumstances beyond your control, such as illness, injury or misadventure or if you have essential commitments which impact your preparation or performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction to Physical Computing Online class (0.5 hr) LO1
Meet Python Online class (0.5 hr) LO4
LittleBits Drawing Machines Tutorial (2 hr) LO2 LO5
Week 02 Basic Electronics Online class (0.5 hr) LO4 LO5
Ludic Design Online class (0.5 hr) LO2
Double Diamond Design Tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO5
Week 03 Meet the Microcontrollers Online class (0.5 hr) LO3
Meet the Microbit Online class (0.5 hr) LO4 LO5
Welcome to MicroBit Tutorial (2 hr) LO4 LO5
Week 04 Affordances Online class (0.5 hr) LO1 LO2
Microbit I/O Online class (0.5 hr) LO3 LO4
Problem Spaces Tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 05 Interaction Model Online class (0.5 hr) LO3
Microbit Sensors Online class (0.5 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5
Interaction models to interactive code Tutorial (2 hr) LO3 LO4
Week 06 Gestures Online class (0.5 hr) LO1 LO2
Gestures Tutorial (2 hr) LO4 LO5
Microbit Gestures Online class (0.5 hr) LO2 LO4 LO5
Week 07 Visual Communication and Semiotics Online class (0.5 hr) LO1 LO2
Timepieces Tutorial (2 hr) LO4 LO5
Microbit Neopixels Online class (0.5 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 08 Narratives for pitching your project/Technology Probes Online class (0.5 hr) LO1 LO5
Project Questions Online class (0.5 hr) LO5
Assignment 2: Project Demonstration Tutorial (2 hr)  
Week 09 False Positives Online class (0.5 hr) LO1 LO2
Electronics Logic and Timing Online class (0.5 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5
Timing and Scheduling Tutorial (2 hr) LO3 LO4
Week 10 Robots and Public Displays Online class (0.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO5
User Testing Online class (0.5 hr) LO1 LO5
Project Time Tutorial (2 hr) LO5
Week 11 Interactive Installations at Vivid Online class (0.5 hr) LO1 LO2
Project Questions Online class (0.5 hr) LO5
Project Time Tutorial (2 hr) LO5
Week 12 Project Questions Online class (0.5 hr) LO5
The Internet of Things Online class (0.5 hr) LO1 LO2
Assignment 3: Project Demonstration Tutorial (2 hr)  

Attendance and class requirements

Please refer to the Resolutions of the University School:

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

Please see the eReserve section of Canvas for the list of readings.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University’s graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. display a critical and informed understanding of physical computing principles for digital product design
  • LO2. develop concepts of digital products that combine physical interfaces and user interaction
  • LO3. demonstrate a sound understanding of the physical computing platform including use of input process, output models and interaction models
  • LO4. demonstrate proficiency with digital tools and programming skills necessary to implement a physical computing concept
  • LO5. prototype a novel physical computing device that does not rely on screen-based interaction and feedback.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities
This unit has changed in delivery due to the Pandemic. The assessment brief has also been developed further for clarity.

Additional costs

The purchase of a BBC Micro:Bit and sensor Kit is required for this class. You will be provided with a link for a discounted price in week 1. More information regarding the purchase of this kit will be provided through canvas and during the week 1 class.


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