Embedded Systems and Kinetic Art

This web page should be largely considered as a pointer to the Canvas page that really represents the class.

The class Canvas page is at: https://utah.instructure.com/courses/320795

Instructors: Erik Brunvand (School of Computing) and Paul Stout (Department of Art and Art History)

Course Numbers: This course is cross-listed for Spring 2015 as CS5789 and Art4455

When: Spring Semester 2015, T-Th 3:40-6:40

Where: We'll meet mostly in the Art building in Sculpt 178.
Sculpt 178 is the "Sculpture area" in the Art building. It's in the SE corner of the art building.
(There's an interactive map of campus located here if you don't know where the Art Building is)

What: Drawing on Data is our theme for 2015. We want to focus on kinetic art that draws upon, or reacts to, or modulates, or is otherwise connected to data. This could be as simple as using real-time sensors to capture data about the environment in which the artwork lives, or as complex as performing detailed data analysis to drive the kinetic behavior, or any number of other ways that data can be used as a fundamental element in the work.

Why: One of the main purposes of this joint class is to help students understand the fundamental notion of DESIGN, both in engineering and the arts. We all can appreciate good design when we see it, and appreciate things (both computer-related and art-related) that exhibit excellence in design. But how do good designers learn to be good designers? We hope that this course is one step along that journey.

From the Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) side we encourage students to apply their technical skills in a context that is explicitly non-technical. This can allow students thefreedom to try a wide range of approaches to a particular problem. In the process, engineers are exposed to a variety of aesthetic and creative concepts that would not normally be part of an engineering curriculum. Artists explore programming and engineering in a context that is more conducive to their learning style because it is directed at art-making. Both groups of students gain practical experience in design-thinking which is quite distinct from the computational thinking that is usually more associated with CSE.

Course Description

Kinetic sculpture is art that contains moving parts or depends on motion, sound, or light for its effect. The kinetic aspect is often regulated using microcontrollers  connected to motors, actuators, transducers, and sensors that enable the sculpture to move and react to its environment.

An embedded system is a special-purpose computer system (microcontroller) designed to perform one or a few dedicated functions, often reacting to environmental sensors. It is embedded into a complete device including hardware and mechanical parts rather than being a separate computer system.

Kinetic art using embedded control is a marriage of art and technology. Artistic sensibility is required for concept and planning, and engineering skill is required to realize the artistic vision. In this project-based class computer engineering students will work together with art students to build collaborative kinetic art pieces. Students will explore interfacing of embedded systems with sensors and acuators of all sorts, along with real-time/interactive programming techniques and interrupt driven system design. They will also explore physical and conceptual aspects of machine-making as a sculpture process.

Drawing on Data implies a connection between the artwork developed, and some sort of data that mediates its behavior. We will start with individual projects, and then finish with group projects that include both artists and engineers. We want to make kinetic art that is interesting sculpture in its own right, and that involves data of some sort in its conception or behavior. This is a cross between an engineering class (embedded system design and programming) and a studio art class (designing and building the sculptures) with all students participating fully in both areas.

Course Schedule

This collaborative course is constantly evolving, so the schedule may be changing from week to week as the course evolves...

The course schedule is on the course Canvas page: https://utah.instructure.com/courses/320795

Other Information...

LINKS: On this page you will find interesting links related to embedded systems and kinetic art

Here are some conference presenations that Erik and Paul have done relating to this course, and to kinetic art in general

Here's a short video produced by the University of Utah PR office related to the Fall 2010 version of this course.

Intersectio | A Kinetic Art Connection from The University of Utah on Vimeo.

Here are links to previous year's schedules if you're curious

The 2010 offering of this class was with CS5868 and Art4455.
The class projects were shown in the Gittins Gallery in February 2011.
Click here for pictures/videos of that gallery show: Intersectio

Intersectio is Latin for "the intersection of"


The 2009 offering of this class was with CS5868 and FA4300.
The class projects were shown in the Gittins Gallery in January, 2010.
Click here for pictures of that gallery show: Invisible Logic