On the first day at (Interactive Telecommunications Program) ITP New York University (NYU), I got to observe three amazing teachers with different teaching styles. I sat in on Tom Igoe’s Intro to Physical Communication, Daniel Shiffman’s Intro to Computational Media and Benjamin Light’s Intro to Fabrication.

I sat on Tom’s 9 am and he started with a quick activity in which the students had to introduce themselves, where they were from and what manual skill they had. The class size at ITP is relatively small compared to 48 at Pulchowk Campus, where I did my undergraduate engineering from. I was amazed by the diversity of the students. They were from different backgrounds like graphics design, industrial design, marketing, journalism, electrical engineering, computer engineering and language. I was wondering how ITP addresses the varying levels, skills and interests of this diverse group of students.

And the manual skills were also diverse: swimming, rock climbing, balance, calligraphy, water color painting, running, playing sports, setting up stages for dogs and taking pictures of the dogs, photography and making things. Mine was ‘breaking things apart’.

Tom's class P Comp

Tom showed an Arduino to the class. They had this simple yet ingenious setup to show what the teacher was doing, like a chef would in a cooking show. It was basically a webcam on a stand that displays the output on the projector screen. It was one of those moments when you’re like ‘Why haven’t we been doing that, that’s so simple?’.

So the students were told to document their work constantly and write about it on their blogs and all the resources were online. Then the class went on a tour of the Shop, there were hand tools, laser cutters, drill presses and power tools but the one I liked was the Junk Shop, trash for someone could be inspiration for someone else.

Tom introduced some concepts as the class went on and it’s always fun to hear different ways different teachers explain the same concepts. Here are some that I liked:

  1. Discrete: Is the cat ON the mat or is the cat OFF the mat?
  2. Continuous: How fat is the cat on the mat?
  3. Parallel: Playing a chord on a piano
  4. Serial: Playing a melody on a piano

There were also some interesting concepts that I had not thought about like inputs being tangible and intangible and responses being implicit (usually intangible, take an action to get an unexpected response) and explicit (usually tangible, take action to get the expected consequence) and was wondering how we could integrate the intangible element in our Creative Computing classes for middle school kids.

Then came the prompt, the students were divided into groups of 3 and were asked to build a fantasy device. The 5 teams had different approaches and almost all the teams spent a lot of time on discussion followed by brainstorming. Only two teams made physical products.


I’d personally have liked the prompt to be a bit more engaging with a fun story tied to it or perhaps a thought activity before introducing the prompt directly but as Tom told me later, he likes to do things differently each time.

Here are the ideas the teams came up with:

  1. Smell detector: worn around a neck that tells you if the person next to you would be a match for kissing
  2. Necklace and ring: takes videos and photos that can be controlled by using hand gestures
  3. Thought projections: displays what’s in your mind
  4. IKEA FedEx: helps you move (teleport) stuff to your apartment directly  
  5. Plastic bag: teleports whatever is in the bag to another location

The students presented their ideas in front of the class and the rest of the students asked questions about the fantasy devices. It was fun and engaging for everyone.


Then I sat in on Dan’s Intro to Computational Media where he talked about p5.js and did a really fun programming activity similar to what we do with our kids at Karkhana when we introduce the concept of programming. Similar to Tom’s class, Dan’s class was also diverse with students coming from different backgrounds and with varying skill levels.


Then till 9 pm, I was at Ben’s Intro to Fabrication class where he put a lot of emphasis on safety when using the tools at the shop. It was fun look at all the tools ITP has and am looking forward to using them during my stay here.


So a fun 12 hours from 9 am to 9 pm at ITP. 🙂