ITPG-GT.2924.1 Biomechanics for Interactive Design

Thur 9:30am to 12:00pm in 447

Dustyn Roberts (

Description: This class is designed to equip students with basic knowledge of biomechanics and human movement, as well as of sensors that can be used to track, visualize, or measure different aspects of it. The study of human movement dates back before the days of da Vinci, and readings covered throughout the class will give students an appreciation of the evolution of this field as an art and a science. Materials covered in class will range from basic anatomy and vocabulary used to talk about motion, limits of human athletic performance, balance, how human joints function and how muscles create movement, human factors in product design, etc. The initial lectures will serve as a foundation for a main project that will deal with exploring human motion through a physical system. Project suggestions will be provided but student input and in-class discussion will determine what is ultimately pursued. Both individual and small group work will be required. Prerequisite: Intro to Physical Computing

For each week, you’ll find:

  • Concepts we’ll discuss in class. Course notes are usually linked so you can read them before class, to know what we’re talking about.
  • Homework is assigned the week it is listed, and due the week after (unless otherwise notified).  Reading, projects, etc. will come up in discussion the week after assigned, so be prepared.


Since the program is Pass/Fail, 80% and above will be considered Pass

  • Participation & Attendance 30%
    • Missing more than 2 classes or being late to more than 5 classes is an automatic failure
    • If you’re going to be late or absent, please email me in advance.  If you have an emergency, please let me know as soon as you can.
    • Showing up on time, engaging in the class discussion, and offering advice and critique on other projects in the class is a major part of your grade.
  • Documentation 30%
    • You are required to keep an online journal/blog of your work. At a minimum, reference to each week’s work is expected, as well as reference to any readings, and thorough documentation of the projects and technical research.
    • This a relatively new class, and will be changing and evolving weekly. Please ask questions if anything isn’t clear. I will keep you posted of any changes, but check the website frequently.
    • Always cite the sources of your work, including code, the places you learned techniques from, and the inspirations of your ideas. Few ideas come out of the blue, and your readers can learn a lot from the sources you learned from or were inspired by.
  • Production Assignments 40%
    • For production assignments, you are expected to present your project in class on the day that it’s due. If it’s group work, all group members should be present, on time, and should participate equally in the presentation.  If it’s a solo project, we may or may not have time to hear from everyone in class, but I will check through your blogs to give feedback.

Office Hours/Help

Office hours by Skype/hangount/phone Friday morning 10:30am – 12noon.  Email me to set something up.  You can also email me questions – I’ll make every effort to respond in 24 hours or less.

Laptops & Phones

  • Please keep your phone on silent/vibrate or off. If you have an emergency that may require you to answer your phone during class, please tell me ahead of time.
  • Laptops can be used to follow a reading we are discussing or during work sessions. Otherwise, lids down. The quality of the class depends in large part on the quality of your attention and active participation.


WEEK 1 – Jan 29

  • Intros! Name, year at ITP/school, background, why you are taking this class
  • Overview and goals of the course
  • Archive
  • History of biomechanics
  • Introduction to Research and research methods


    • Find and read: F. Gemperle, C. Kasabach, J. Stivoric, M. Bauer, and R. Martin, “Design for Wearability,” in Proc. of 2nd IEEE International Symposium on Wearable Computers, 1998, pp. 116-122.
    • Accept invitation to Biomechanics website blog. Post all your weekly blog assignments to the class blog here.
    • Identify someone who works in the field of biomechanics from ancient times through the present. Blog about their work (include at least one picture or video) and discuss anything particularly intriguing. Also include one citation of their work (a journal article or book they wrote).
    • Meet in Mac lab (located on the first lower level of Bobst library) at 9:30am for next class!


WEEK 2 – Feb 5

  • At Library
    • Review of research resources and methods in Mac lab (located on the first lower level of Bobst library)
  • Back at ITP


    • Read pg 23-24 in Chapter 1 of Making Things Move (on degrees of freedom)
    • Read Chapter 4 in Making Things Move (will email pdf)
    • Choose at least one joint and at least one plane of motion, and map the range of motion in some sort of digital or physical representation


WEEK 3 – Feb 12


    • Find, read, and respond (on blog) to:
      A. Sheikhzadeh, J. Yoon, D. Formosa, B. Domanska, D. Morgan, and M. Schiff, “The effect of a new syringe design on the ability of rheumatoid arthritis patients to inject a biological medication,” Applied Ergonomics, vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 368–375, Mar. 2012.
    • Review Fastest anatomy lesson ever on your own


WEEK 4 – Feb 19


    • Find and read to: J. M. Donelan, Q. Li, V. Naing, J. A. Hoffer, D. J. Weber, and A. D. Kuo, “Biomechanical Energy Harvesting: Generating Electricity During Walking with Minimal User Effort,” Science, vol. 319, no. 5864, pp. 807 -810, Feb. 2008.
    • Get in groups and register your Fitbit here. Divide the next week of wearing it between your group members.
    • Preliminary research on 3 topics – blog your notes
    • Name the skeleton


WEEK 5 – Feb 26


    • Put your project (if it’s not already there) and name on the Projects list Google Doc
    • Literature review – first draft (on blog or linked from it if Google Doc/Word doc)
      • 5 sources minimum (including at least 1 journal or conference article)
      • discuss pros/cons of each source, and describe why your project will be better/different/more extensive/more open hardware/more diy/more accessible (or whatever advantage you have over existing work)
    • Complete visualization of Fitbit data
      • Challenge questions: what is your average stride length? How many calories do you burn per stride?

WEEK 6 – March 5

  • First things first…
  • Skeleton name!
  • Review Fitbit data visualizations
  • Energy – also see Energy class @ ITP
    • Review Biomechanical Energy Harvesting article
  • Wolff’s Law and why you lose bone density in space
  • Project discussion – literature review


    • Choose appropriate response
    • Projects – concept development

WEEK 7 – March 12


    • Projects – develop minimum viable product (MVP)/engineering model
    • choose a “tall pole” to work on first


WEEK 8 – March 26

  • Present project MVPs/tall pole work
  • 11am – Guest speaker: Rob Faludi on sending data wirelessly
  • Intro to Balance and Proprioception (read on your own)


    • Project development – full system design

WEEK 9 – April 2

  • Biomechanics of Major Joints
  • Work for each other part 1: system design
    • You or your team will be paired with another person or team. We’ll focus on five projects per week this week and next. You’ll have 90 minutes to get the team to work for you on your project. Plan out what you need them to do for you. You can have them do research on how to realize the project. You can have them program, or build with you. You can have them try prototypes you’ve built, and respond in depth with comments. Whatever you need them to do now is fair game, as long as you summarize the team’s work and how it’s advanced your project at the end of the 90 minutes.  At the end of the 90 minutes, we-ll re-assemble and you’ll summarize what your team achieved, and what’s to be done next. 10 minutes per team report.  Your team will rotate roles next week, so keep in mind that whoever you’re assisting this week will be assisting you next week.


    • Continue final project development – testing/observation

WEEK 10 – April 9


    • Continue project development
    • Develop presentation covering start to present development for guests next week
      • Plan for 13 minutes total per group including Q&A/discussion. So about 8-9 minutes of presentation material, and 4-5 minutes for questions.  Practice – you will be cut off at 13 minutes so your class mates get the same amount of time.

WEEK 11 – April 16

  • Present final project work to date (with guests)


    • Continue project work

WEEK 12 – April 23

  • Final project development workshop


    • Continue final project work
    • Part 2 presenters: bring snacks/drinks to add to the refreshments next week!

WEEK 13 – April 30

  • Work study opportunity
  • List of biomechanics kit items for future use
  • Final project presentations part 1


    • Part 1 presenters: bring snacks/drinks to add to the refreshments next week!

WEEK 14 – May 7

  • Final project presentations part 2
  • Course evaluations

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