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Hardware and Physical Computing


Admission requirements

Media Technology Msc students


This course is about connecting computers to the physical world. We regularly connect ourselves to computers, for example via keyboard, mouse, monitor, and touch screen. However, many creative computing applications require a computer to connect to the physical world via other sensors (buttons, dials, thermometers, distance sensors, pressure sensors, accelerometers, light sensors, …) and actuators (motors, steppermotors, servo’s, leds, lcd’s, electrical appliances, …). Through computer programming, meaningful interaction patterns between sensors input and actuator output can be created. Typical application domains where computers sense and act in the physical world are robotics, interactive installations, home automation, and experimental research equipment.

This course introduces physical computing and interfacing via the Arduino open-source hardware platform. Arduino’s are inexpensive and popular micro-controller boards. Students learn to build their own Arduino board, to connect sensors and actuators, to program the Arduino, and must then apply it in a creative computing project.

See also the "This is Arduino" webpage, that is used in this course.

Course objectives

After completing the course, students

  • understand what are microprocessors, sensors and actuators, and know specific ones;

  • have hands-on experience with designing and building simple electronic circuits through soldering and breadboard use;

  • can connect basic sensing and actuating circuitry to Arduino;

  • can program Arduino for various tasks;

  • understand the basics of serial communication;

  • understand and have experienced how to approach a creative computing project involving Arduino.


You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction

Lecture, Seminar. Language: English.

Assessment method

Assessment and grading is based on a final (group-)assignment: the creative computing project. Student build an interactive work and present it in class.

Reading list

Selected online materials provided in class.


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Contact the lecturer(s) for course specific questions, and the programme's coordinator for questions regarding admission and/or registration.


Exchange students (other than Media Technology MSc students) need to be admitted to the course before registration due to very limited capacity. Contact the programme's coordinator to request admission; include a short description of your course interest and state your current study programme in your correspondence.