Arduino Summerschool in London, July 2012

I will be running a summerschool on

“Physical Computing with the Arduino”

at Middlesex University, Trent Park Campus, London

Dates: Monday 16 July to Friday 20 July 2012

Times: 10am to 5pm

Location: Middlesex University’s Trent Park Campus, London, UK

Prerequisites: none, but a basic knowledge of computers would be good

This will be the third year I’m running this course.

Physical computing, in the broadest sense, means building interactive physical systems by the use of software and hardware that can sense and respond to the real world. It is a creative framework for understanding human beings’ relationship to the digital world.

The Arduino is an electronics prototyping platform based on cheap, flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It can sense the environment by receiving input from a variety of sensors and can affect its surroundings by controlling lights, motors and other actuators. It was specifically designed for use by designers and artists rather than people with a technical background.

The course will start with the following:

  • Digital inputs so you can read sensors that are either on or off, like switches, passive infrared detectors, etc.
  • Digital outputs so you can control actuators which are either on or off, like LEDs, lights, speakers, etc.
  • Analogue inputs so you can read sensors which have a range of values, like potentiometers and light dependent resistors.
  • Analogue outputs so you can control actuators which have a range of values, like dimming a light or controlling the speed of a motor.
  • Serial communication with the host computer so that you can interact with programs running on it, including graphics and sound.

The next stage will be to look at actuators that make things move. You’ll learn to control DC motors (including their speed), stepper motors, servo motors, solenoids, etc.

Then we’ll move onto more advanced techniques which will depend on the specific interests of the participants. These could include:

  • Wireless communications using RF modules, Zigbee, etc.
  • RFID card reading
  • DMX lighting control
  • MIDI input/output (you could make your own custom musical instrument)
  • GPS input for locative device

For more ideas about what is possible, have a look at the Arduino Playground: If you have a specific project in mind please email the tutor before the course on

Equipment will be provided but if you want to keep the Arduino and associated items after the course, they will have to be paid for.

The course will be an intensive one, so you are strongly advised not to miss any sessions.

This information is available as a PDF document: arduino_summerschool.

Please email me if you want more details about the content of the course. For details about applying, payment, please contact the Summerschool Office.

About Me

Alex Zivanovic
Alex Zivanovic

I am a Senior Lecturer in Design Engineering at Middlesex University (Since July 2009).

I am developing my own interests in the human perception of physical movement, and in particular, robots as interactive sculpture. I have carried out a lot of research into the work of Edward Ihnatowicz, in particular, his work called the Senster.

To see my work, look at my Pages and keep an eye on my Blog for updates or follow me on Twitter: aziv

Email me

More about me:

My full name is Aleksandar Zivanovic, but most people call me Alex.

I’m a Londoner and have lived all my life in the great city (bar a few years at university). My name originates from Serbia, which my parents left over 50 years ago. My father, Predrag, is a retired design engineer and my mother, Mirjana, is a retired mathematics schoolteacher. She still works as a tutor, giving lessons to GCSE standard in the West London area. If you would like to contact either of them, please email me. I have a brother, Stevan, who lives in Cambridge and works in IT.

I went to school at St. Saviour Infant School, then Christ Church C. of E. Juniour School, both in Ealing, and then to Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith. When I finished school, I worked for a year at Texaco, before going to the University of Kent at Canterbury (now called the University of Kent). I gained an Upper Second Class (Hons.) Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Systems Engineering (Informatics) and a Masters degree by research in Electronic Engineering. My master’s thesis was on the development of a six-legged walking robot using a transputer to implement a parallel processing version of the ‘Subsumption Architecture’.

After that, I worked for a year and a bit at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington before joining the Mechatronics in Medicine Laboratory, part of the Mechanical Engineering Department of Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine (now called Imperial College London) in October 1996 and I was awarded my PhD in December 2000. My project was on the development of a haptic robot to take blood samples from the forearm. The robot was called “The Bloodbot” and it caused a great deal of media interest (there were articles published about it in New Scientist, the BBC News website, and BBC World Service website,  The Telegraph, and numerous other places). BBC’s “Tomorrow’s World” filmed it in action and broadcast a report on it on Wednesday 7th March 2001. After my PhD, I tried developing the Bloodbot as a commercial product but it didn’t pan out. In May 2002 I became a Research Associate in the same lab, working on a haptic virtual reality training system for knee arthroscopy for two years and then on MRI compatible robots for three years. I went part-time in February 2007 and finally left Imperial College at the end of June 2007.

See a video of me talking about one of my projects at the Dana Centre.

From July 2007 to July 2009 I was a freelance technology consultant and educator, specialising in working with artists and designers to help them realise their designs.  I was particularly interested in Physical Computing (sensing and controlling the physical world with computers).

I ran workshops on using the Arduino microcontroller system.

I was a visiting tutor at the Royal College of Art helping students on the Design Products course.

I was a visiting tutor at Goldsmiths, teaching Physical Computing in the Computing Department.

I was a visiting scholar at the Lansdown Centre for Electronic Arts at Middlesex University where I am continuing my research into robots as interactive sculpture.

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