Previous Projects


Ben Leduc-Mills, Ph.D. Thesis Project  [2014]


PopCAD (Version 1, Version 2) is a paper-based tangible input device that allows non-experts to model and create their own three-dimensional objects. The user toggles lights (arranged in a 3x3x3 grid) to model the vertices of three-dimensional objects.  PopCAD’s companion software reads the light configurations and then allows the users to export files that can be printed by 3D printers.  PopCAD is the final version of Ben’s earlier design and implementation of UCube and SnapCAD tangible input devices.  Ben discusses these systems and their implications in his doctoral thesis, “Embodied Fabrication:  Body-Centric Devices for Novice Designers.”


Yingdan Huang, Ph.D. Thesis Project [2012]


Easigami is a tangible user interface (TUI) using an embedded computing approach.  It permits users to assemble a wide variety of polyhedral objects by connecting and polygonal pieces and folding them along edge connections.

  • Ph.D. Dissertation:  Easigami: Virtual Creation by Physical Folding.
  • Huang, Y.; Meyers, J.; DuBow, W.; Wu, Z.; and Eisenberg, M. 2013. Programming Plush Toys as an Introduction to Computer Science: the (Fraught) Question of Motivation.  In Ubiquitous and Mobile Learning in the Digital Age, Sampson, D. G. et al., eds. New York: Springer, pp. 215-226.
  • Huang, Y. and Eisenberg, M. 2012. PLUSHBOT: an introduction to computer science. In CHI ’12 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA ’12). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1457-1458.
  • Huang, Y. and Eisenberg, M. 2012. Easigami: virtual creation by physical folding. In Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI ’12), Stephen N. Spencer (Ed.). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 41-48.


Ambient Programming

Nwanua Elumeze, Ph.D. Thesis Project [2010]

Duckie is placed in front of the computer screen, running the “Duck language”; the new program is now flashed to the toy via a pattern of lights emanating from the flower forms seen toward the right of the screen.

Popup Workshop

Sue Hendrix, Ph.D. Thesis Project [2008]



The LilyPad Arduino and Computational Textiles

Leah Buechley, Ph.D. Thesis Project  [2007]

Lilypad Kit

Leah Buechley’s initial development of the LilyPad Arduino took place as her doctoral thesis project in the Craft Tech Lab.  The Lilypad Arduino is sold world-wide and is an industry standard in wearable computing and e-textiles.  It has served as the conceptual basis for many other e-textile computational systems.

LED tank top


Glenn Blauvelt, Ph.D. Thesis Project [2006]


Traditionally, the notion of home crafting connotes the use of “low-tech” materials and techniques; but increasingly, the once-distinct worlds of crafting and computational media have become integrated, to the mutual benefit of both cultures. In this paper, we discuss a wide range of recurring issues in the integration of crafts and computation, drawing upon a variety of related research projects. In particular, we explore the ways in which attention to computational crafts can encourage a productive re-examination of such notions as programming languages, computer architectures, and peripheral devices.


Tom Wrensch, Ph.D. Thesis Project [2002]

  • Ph.D. Dissertation:  Programming computationally enhanced craft items.

This thesis is a study from a builder’s point of view of materials that blend physical objects with computation. Specifically, this study is placed in the context of craft, where the builders are crafters and the materials are computationally enhanced craft items (CECIs). CECIs are traditional craft materials enhanced with behaviors and sufficient computation to control behaviors and to provide end-user programmability.


  • Wrensch, T.; Eisenberg, M.; and Blauvelt, G.  2001.  Computationally-Enhanced Craft Items: Toward ‘Programmable Parts’ for Educational Robotics.  In AAAI Spring Symposium on Robotics and Education, March, Palo Alto, CA.
  • Wrensch, T.; Blauvelt, G.; and Eisenberg, M. 2000. The rototack: designing a computationally-enhanced craft item. In Proceedings of DARE 2000 on Designing augmented reality environments (DARE ’00). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 93-101.

This paper describes our progress in creating a device called a rototack. In its design, the rototack is an example of a computationally-enhanced craft item: a small, robust, inexpensive, and versatile — but also programmable — physical object for use in a variety of educational and home crafting projects. In particular, the tack is a source of rotational motion, suitable for turning light objects or for powering (e.g.) cams, gears, and linkages in complex, user-defined patterns. We describe the engineering decisions and trade-offs involved in creating our current prototype of the tack; discuss the central issues in creating a programming language and environment for the device; and sketch a variety of potential uses to which the tack might be put.

Traditionally, the practitioners of home crafting and the practitioners of computing tend to occupy distinct, nonoverlapping cultures. Those small, ubiquitous items of the crafting culture—string, thumbtacks, screws, nails, and so forth—thus tend to be viewed as inevitably “lowtech” objects. This paper describes our initial efforts toward integrating computational and crafting media by creating an instance of a computationally-enhanced craft item: a programmable hinge. We describe several prototype models of the hinge; outline a sample project in which the hinge might be employed; and discuss a variety of fundamental issues that affect the design of computationally-enhanced craft items generally.