As an ongoing effort, I have been independently studying electronic design. The focus of this effort has been building a general purpose computer/physical interface device. This device allows software on the computer to monitor and control sensors, motors, and other external devices via the USB port. You can see an example of this project in use in my Electronic Marionette Interface
My original interest in building this device was sparked by need. I had worked on a variety of projects (both persnoal, and in assisting students when I was teaching at MCAD) that required a physical interface. Often these interfaces would be made by hacking a keyboard, mouse, or joystick. While these hacked interfaces would work, they were not stable, flexible, or professional solutions. This would lead to projects that required some "babysitting" when exhibited. In the last few years, a variety of comerically available interfaces for this kind of work have appeared, and some are surprisingly inexpensive. While designing my own board still offers some practical advantages, the availability of these off the shelf solutions has changed my primary motivation. This project has been an excelent platform to learn to design and manufacture electronic circuits in general, as well as to gain a deeper understanding into using phyisical interfaces.