Responsive Environments: Applied Physics & Experimental Design

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Often invisible, the laws of physics govern our day to day rituals, from the sound waves created by the electromagnetic field in your headphones to the friction and traction between your slippers and the floor.  Though these phenomena are unremarkable to us experientially, they are foundational to how we interact with our surroundings.  But, what exactly is happening in these moments, and how can we use them to understand the more complex relationships between humans, our environments, and technology?

In the Responsive Environments course, students will examine applied physics through the lens of interactive, futuristic living spaces to understand how basic physics principles impact our everyday interactions with our environments. We will research designers such as Philip Beesley, who creates ‘living’ sculptures that breathe and undulate in response to the environment and houses that use color changing cladding that darkens and lightens in response to outside temperature. Using our own understanding of adaptive material technologies, control systems, automation, and augmentation, we will explore what it means for a structure to be alive and connected to its inhabitants.  

Through a series of hands-on activities and design exercises, students will explore various applied topics including the physics of motion, forces, electricity, and magnetism. Informed by their own research and experiments, students will propose a final project that envisions a task-driven, responsive machine for a future environment.

For virtual sessions, we will be meeting at this zoom link: