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Thesis Defense: Joel Sadler

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December 3, 2015 - 9:00am
Building 550, Panama Mall at, Studio 2 (2nd floor)

Joel Sadler Phd Thesis Defense

The Anatomy of Creative Computing: Enabling Novices to Prototype Smart Devices

Advised by: Larry Leifer, Sakti Srivastava, Lauren Shluzas, Paulo Blikstein


Can we enable anyone to create anything?

The physical computing tools of a rising Maker Movement are enabling the next generation of artists, designers, clinicians, and children, to create complex electronic prototypes. However, technical novices often struggle with the circuitry and programming required to make a smart device. Affordable sensors, actuators and novice microcomputer toolkits are the building blocks of the field we refer to as Creative Computing — and here we examine the core properties of toolkits specifically designed to enhance creative problem solving.

In this dissertation defense I will explore the question: “How can we support technical novices in crossing the gap between idea and electronic prototype?”

In doing so, I document the tradeoffs that influence the usability of an electronics toolkit, demonstrate the ability to systematically measure the prototyping experience with design tools, and illustrate a significant increase in a novice designer’s ability and confidence with electronics through a one-hour design exercise. We examine each of these areas through a series of prototyping experiments with novices, and show how toolkits combining (1) modular hardware, (2) hackable software, and (3) accessible low-resolution materials such as paper, can encourage novices to: make more prototypes, generate more novel ideas, and increase creative confidence.