[2015 archive] Homemade Hardware


Instructor: Andy Sigler

Email: andrewsigler1@gmail.com

Class Time: Thursday nights, 6:30-9pm

Office Hours: make an appointment


ITP is pass/fail, but you do still get graded. To pass, students must document and show work and progress through out the semester, and cannot miss more than 2 classes without prior notice.

  • Attendance and Participation: 30%
  • Blogging and Assignments: 30%
  • Final Project: 40%


Hardware is not hard, and rapidly prototyping circuit boards is easier than ever with new tools at ITP. This class is about artists and designers taking control of their hardware, and exploring the potential of embedding their projects into the world around them.

This is a 14-week course, with no class on November 26th during Thanksgiving vacation. There will be three projects made in this course, tentatively due weeks 5, 9, and 14. However, this is a new course, so the schedule might change to best fit the students' schedules.

This is a production class, and the entire course will be centered around the concept of learning by doing. The first half of the semester will be dedicated to learning new processes and tools for making PCBs on the floor, and embracing all of our inevitable mistakes. The second half of the semester will focus more on individual projects, how to structure their design and development, and refining what we've learned so far.

Class 1

Sept. 3

Introductions and Syllabus

  • What is this class, and why does it exist?
  • Go over the syllabus, class plan, and prior works


  • Integrated circuits and microcontrollers
  • What makes an Arduino, and what the IDE is doing
  • Arduino on a breadboard, and the ATtiny85

For next class:

Download Eagle.

Breadboard an interaction using an ATtiny85, batteries, and whatever else you want. Keep everything contained to the breadboard (no laptops), and have fun with it. Post a video of it working to your blog.

Class 2

Sept. 10

Electricity Basics

  • Electrons, voltage, current, and resistance
  • Schematics, Ohm's law, and Kirchhoff's laws

Eagle Schematic View

  • Eagle overview & how it uses components
  • Eagle schematic view demo & workshop


  • The do's and don'ts of soldering
  • Solder together an "Arduino as ISP" programmer shield

For next class:

Turn your previous breadboard project (or something new) into an Eagle schematic.

Class 3

Sept. 17

Components and Packages

  • Resistors, capacitors, diodes, and regulators
  • Packages, DIP, SMD, and navigating Digikey

Eagle Board View

  • Overview and routing demo
  • Class workshop

For next class:

Design a board layout in Eagle using your schematic from last week.

Class 4

Sept. 24


  • CNC mills and how the Othermill works
  • Board design rules, setup, running, and cleanup
  • Cleaning and testing a milled PCB

Solder Mask

  • Demo applying solder mask to a PCB
  • Soldering with v.s. without solder mask

For next class:

Mill and assemble you're first PCB using the OtherMill and through-hole parts. Make two copies for when you mess up, and hold on to your broken boards.

Class 5

Oct. 1

Project Presentations

  • Quickly demonstrate your project's interaction, and show your Eagle files

SMD in Eagle

  • Standard packages & designing with pads
  • Using Adafruit/Sparkfun designs at ITP
  • Double-sided boards & vias

For next class:

Research open-source breakout boards, and get your hands on some. Explore the interactions that are possible with your hardware.

Buy a tupperware container for etching next class. It must be plastic, and it must be able to fit a copper plate (about 7 inch. width, 5 inch length, any no more than 2 inch. tall).

Class 6

Oct. 8

Acid Etching

  • Demo and workshop on toner transfer and acid etching processes

SMD Assembly

  • Making solder stencils on the laser cutter
  • Applying solder paste with stencil
  • Manually pick-and-place parts
  • Reflow with the heat gun and oven
  • Making vias at ITP

For next class:

Get a prototype working. Next week we will be working in class on your midterms, so be prepared with whatever prototyping tools you need.

Class 7

Oct. 15


  • Overview of CNC machines, GCode, and appropriating machines to do your bidding
  • Using the Roland Modela for holes, dimensions, and panels

Midterm Workshop

  • Working on midterm in class, and I'll be meeting with each project

For next class:

Order the parts needed for your Midterm if you haven't already. Work on your board designs, and refine your interaction/software.

Class 8

Oct. 22

Roland Modela

  • Regulating power, and what to do when needing different voltages
  • Batteries, lipo batteries, & wall adapters

Midterm Workshop

  • Working on midterm in class, and I'll be meeting with each project

For next class:

Finish the midterm, document, and be prepared to present to the class next week.

Class 9

Oct. 29

Midterm Presentations

  • Demonstrate your project's interaction, share your Eagle files, and talk about your process.

Class 10

Nov. 5

Big Tools

  • Pick-and-Place: preparing the file and loading the reels.
  • Reflow Oven: prepping solder and temperature profiles

Using a Board House

  • Differences and tradeoffs from DIY boards
  • Design rule checks, and working with board houses
  • How professional PCBs are made

For next class:

Research for your final, and get writing software as soon as possible.

Class 11

Nov. 12


  • P2P networks and the RFm69
  • WiFi and the esp8266
  • Bluetooth LE and the nRF51822

For next class:

Narrow down the hardware for you final, and work with ready-made boards to refine the interaction.

Class 12

Nov. 19

Final Concept Presentation

Prepare a 3 minute presentation on one idea for your final. Include sketches and pictures to show the intended interaction, enclosure, and electrical components involved.

Eagle Techniques

  • Quickly make a part from a datasheet
  • Creating a ground plane for etched boards

For next class:

Source your parts, and design your boards. Over break, try to make at least one prototype PCB to spot any mistakes you've missed.

Thanksgiving Break

Nov. 26

Class 13

Dec. 3

Final Workshop

  • Working on final in class, and I'll be meeting with each project

For next class:

Finish the final.

Class 14

Dec. 10

Final Presentations

Class Review