SmartSurfaces offers an integrative, hands-on learning experience where cross-disciplinary teams design, build and test interactive surfaces that have the capacity to adapt to information and environmental conditions. Prioritizing thinking-through-making, this University of Michigan course operates as a hands-on think-tank where participants pool their knowledge and skills to work together to produce environmentally sound and socially responsible projects. Participants learn effective problem-generation and problem-solving approaches that incorporate multiple disciplinary perspectives in a team context.
The course is organized into two phases. For the first phase, participants focus on problem and constraint definition, structured brainstorming and skill building. The second half of the semester involves the production of fully-realized, funded projects. Each week the teams are expected to produce at least one physical prototype and give a group presentation on what they have made. Individuals are also required to keep a blog documenting their own contributions. Teams have to consider and negotiate what makes a surface smart, and why we would be interested in making one. The final projects are presented publicly, together with documentation and a written project report.
Each week the teams are expected to produce at least one physical prototype, give a group presentation on what they made and how they went about doing this. Each team is asked to explain their design; their assumptions about the design and its context; and they are asked to talk about their experiences working in their cross-disciplinary teams. At these presentations there is an expectation that any device presented must function. The presentations are followed by an extensive critique, which includes questions from the instructors, invited guests, and fellow students.