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What am I learning?

A full run through of what to expect in Week 1 of this course on physical computing, including its timeline, and examples of it in real life.
Two engineers working with robotics and computer

Week 1 begins by defining exactly what physical computing is. You’ll discover just how much creativity there is in the field, and how it is populated not by computing experts, but by a diverse range of people and roles.

We’ll give you real world examples of physical computing, showing you where physical computing is in the home, the car, the environment, and more.

We will take you through a timeline of the evolution of physical computing over the years, from its origins as far back as 1804, right up to the modern face of physical computing today. As you will see, all these advancements led to the present day, where controlling physical computing systems is now in the hands of you: a global creative community of citizen developers.

We’ll then break down the anatomy of what makes up a physical computing system, exploring its constituent parts: the software and the hardware.

We’ll explore the hardware that takes in information and reacts to decisions made in the software: sensors and actuators. We’ll give you a scenario of a physical computing system that you will easily be able to recognise and break down into its different parts. We’ll also show you examples of code that runs in physical computing systems. These examples will be simple and accessible samples of code used in physical computing.

Finally, we’ll discuss the ethics behind physical computing. As computers are being built to make decisions for us, to store information about us and our daily habits; when they can drive cars, airplanes and control traffic, ethics has become a growing and important area in computer science, and should always be considered. This is not only to make sure the right decisions are being made, but whether that decision should be made by a computer in the first place.

Share your thoughts

  • After this brief introduction, what are you most looking forward to on this course? What are you surprised to see in this course?
  • Thinking about physical computing, look around your current area – either your home, office, or even your street. How many devices do you think use physical computing?
Share your thoughts, before heading into the next steps to explore further.
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Introduction to Physical Computing

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