CSC 297 Pervasive Computing (Fall 2011)


Class meets: Tuesday & Thursday 2:00-3:15 CSB 632
Instructor: Henry Kautz <>
Office hours: Wednesday 11:00-12:00, also by appointment and whenever my office door is open (CSB 709)


Our daily lives are emeshed with computational devices. There are computers in our cell phones, wristwatches, games, televisions, appliances, automobiles, security systems, heating and cooling systems ... the list expands every day, from the frivolous - greeting cards with voice recording and playback capability - to the profound - outdoor surveillance systems in high-crime neighborhoods that listen for gunshots and zoom in on the shooters.

The rise of the pervasive computing environment has engendered a community of people exploring novel alternative uses for these technologies. Such people were at first called "hackers", but in recent years the community has adopted the more benevolent moniker "makers". The Makers creed is that technology and its impact on society is too important to be left in the control of corporations and governments. Making demystifies high tech, and turns us from passive consumers to active participants in shaping our world.

CSC 297 Pervasive Computing is not a traditional lecture course. We will search for information about devices and technologies individually and in small groups, teach ourselves how to hack them, and share our discoveries with the rest of the class. We will discuss and sometimes replicate creations from the maker community, and see how making proceeds from idea to reality. We will imagine and build our own creations, and share them with each other and the world.

What you get out of this class will directly correspond to what you put into it. I hope it consumes your every waking moment, not because of required assignments, but because you become engrossed in the subject. Specific tasks you will do individually or in groups:
  • Research and learn the programming (and sometimes hardware) interfaces of a pervasive computing platform. Replicate some of the hacks you have read about. Create a page on the course wiki describing what you learned and giving pointers to the most useful sources of information you found. Present your findings to the class.
  • Imagine and present novel concepts of pervasive computing. Listen carefully to the ideas of others. Ask insightful questions, and help refine and reshape the ideas that emerge.
  • Implement a novel system that includes one or more pervasive devices. You will present your work in stages to the class, so you can take in constructive feedback.
  • Discuss papers and projects related to pervasive computing from around the world.

Course Sitemap

To assist you with your projects, the instructor pages for this course contain documentation on the basics of each platform. We have provided installation and usage instructions for any necessary software components, as well as sample projects that can serve as the foundation of your own. Of course, you should use this site as a springboard for your ideas--don't be limited by the options presented here.


At this stage in our lives, we should all be intrinsically motivated to do good work, rather than relying on extrinsic motivations such as grades or money. None the less, I will honor your contributions to the class with a grade as follows:
  • A: You did everything you were required to do in a timely fashion, and did one or more things in an extraordinarily creative and/or profound manner.
  • B: You did everything you were required to do in a timely fashion.
  • C: You did most but not all of what you were required to do.
  • F: You did less than half of the required work, or you tried to cheat.


There is only one way to cheat in this course, and that is by claiming credit for someone else's work. The notion of "work" can be anything from an idea to an implemented piece of code. We want you to re-use other people's work, you just have to document where you got it! All cases of suspected cheating will be referred to the University's Academic Honesty Board.


This website was initially researched and designed by Aleksey Polesskiy and Nikhil Benesch.