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Course Profile: Rapid Prototyping & Physical Computing

INFO 4320 - Rapid Prototyping

Bringing Ideas to Life - INFO 4320 Students Show Off Their Prototypes from Information Science Cornell on Vimeo.

Chocolate printers, new and imaginative musical instruments, robots that can deal a poker hand or mix a drink – the final projects from Info Science students in “Introduction to Rapid Prototyping and Physical Computing” are as varied as they are innovative.

But as course instructor François Guimbretière notes, Rapid Prototyping (INFO 4320) is not necessarily about being the most innovative, but rather bringing an idea to life.

“The main point is to understand how you build something. For me, it’s okay if you replicate something that exists,” the Info Sci associate professor said. “Teaching students the implementation of the idea is most interesting for me. Students have been trained a lot in software, but doing the same thing in hardware is very different and probably far more complicated.”

A spring semester class offering for both Info Science undergraduates and Master of Professional Studies (MPS) students, “Rapid Prototyping…” stresses hands-on learning. The semester’s 30 students spend class time immersed in an aspect of hardware prototyping – how to control a motor or an LED, for instance – and three assigned projects equip MPS innovators with cutting edge prototyping techniques like laser cutting, 3D printing and microcontroller programming. With these tools, students conceptualize and fabricate their own tangible innovations as a final semester project.

“I’m a strong believer that you can learn how to design things. It’s not innate,” Guimbretière said, but “for this class, there is far less emphasis on design and more emphasis on how you put something together. It’s important for designers because, sooner or later, you have to demonstrate your vision to the user. In many cases, you need something new in hardware.”

CS 2110 (“Object-Oriented Programming and Data Structures”) or permission from the instructor is required to enroll in INFO 4320.