(for an overview of the entire first year see the Year 1 overview page)

In the Smart Environments module students learn various techniques from different disciplines that are needed to invent, design and realize (a prototype of) a smart environment. This module is divided in five clusters:

  1. Introduction to Engineering (ITE)
    1. Engineering our Digital Future (EDF)
    2. Introduction to Mathematics and Modelling (IMM)
  2. Ubiquitous Computing (UbC)
    1. Smart Environment Lectures (SEL)
    2. Programming and Physical Computing (PPC)
  3. Project (Proj)
    1. Creative Application 2 (CA2)
    2. Management and Design (PM)
  4. Sketching (Sk)
  5. Professional Development (PD)

Thematic components in Q2

Engineering our Digital Future

Engineering our Digital Future consists of two topics that are both related to physics and physical signals.

Part 1 deals with an introduction into sound engineering and digital music. Most common terminology used in sound and music engineering will be discussed. The relationship between signal mathematics and music tones from (analog and digital) musical instruments will be shown via descriptions, manipulations, analysis and synthesis of sound signals. Furthermore, graphical representations in time and frequency domain (spectra) of signals will be introduced. A laboratory session on spectral analysis of signals will accompany this part.

Part 2 deals with an introduction into electric circuits. Most important quantities and elements in DC (static) electric circuits will be introduced (voltage, current, sources, resistors, voltage dividers). Furthermore, a first introduction is provided on AC (dynamic) electric circuits on a signal level (periodic waveform in electric circuits) and via the introduction of the two elements capacitor and inductor. Special attention will be paid to the i-v relationship of the R,L, C elements to get the student acquainted with integration and differentiating actions in electrical systems and signals, The latter will be accompanied by a lab session. This set-up serves multiple purposes: introduce students in an early phase with the physical side (hardware) side of creative technology; operationalize the mathematics of this module in real physical systems and settings; provide both a theoretical and practical base for the physical systems course in module 3.

Introduction to Mathematics and Modelling

In Introduction to Mathematics and Modelling two basic concepts of analysis are studied: differentiation and integration. The course starts with an introduction to functions of one variable. Basic concepts like transformation of functions and graph sketching will be treated. Standard functions like polynomials, trigonometric and exponential functions will be dealt with in detail. The next topic is differentiation. What is differentiation and where does it originate from? The formal definition of the derivative is too cumbersome to use, and therefore we subsequently learn to calculate the derivative of a function by applying differentiation rules

Finally, we introduce the notion of the definite integral. We learn that the definite integral arises from Riemann sums, and can be defined as a limit of such sums. However, the definition has limited practical use. For actual computations we use the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, which gives a relation between differentiation and integration including a number of integration rules. Two major methods for calculating integrals will be presented: the method of substitution and the method of integration by parts. It will turn out that calculating integrals is much harder than calculating derivatives. We will train the integrating skills extensively by making lots of exercises.

For the Introduction to Mathematics and Modelling (IMM), each week four hours of colstruction (a combination of a lecture and a tutorial) are scheduled. These hours are used for a short lecture about the theory and for working on assignments. During the module, three intermediate exams are scheduled, one in November, one in December and one in January. The resit for all three of them is in the last week of January. IMM will be continued in module 3, introducing (among other things) differential equations.

Smart Environments Lectures

The lectures on smart environments give an introduction to smart technology, environments and applications. It shows how developments in computer and sensor technology have led to smart systems. These systems, as found in e.g. ambient intelligence, urban sensing, crowd sourcing and wireless sensor networks, are networks of embedded computers, smart mobile phones and smart sensors that offer new and innovative services deemed impossible with traditional computers. The five main characteristics of typical smart environments (autonomous, context-aware, distributed, implicit interaction and intelligent) will be discussed in detail. The Smart Environments lecture series consists of five lectures on concepts and theories.

Programming & Physical Computing

Programming and Physical Computing aims to equip the students with tools for programming interactive applications using input from the physical world. The course is divided into two parts, of which the second part is in the Smart Environments module. In the first part, programming using the ‘Processing’ environment is extended by the ability to use images and text and an extension of object oriented concepts. In the second part an introduction into programming with an embedded microcontroller platform (Arduino) is given. The used toolchain, communication, input, output and the use of libraries is explained. Also the connection with processing is dealt with, necessary for making interaction between the physical world (trough Arduino) and screen applications (Processing).

For Programming and Physical Computing, each week eight hours of lectorials are scheduled. The students work on small assignments, which need to be graded with “pass”, and one larger assignment which is graded with a number.

Creative application 2: Smart Environments

In the Creative Application 2 project all parts of module 2 come together. The students work together in a group of 4 to 6 persons to invent a new smart environment. They design, build and demonstrate the prototype they made for this environment. The grade (Pass/Fail) is based on a number of criteria: novelty of the idea, compliance to the five smart environments components, structured approach and quality and demonstration of the prototype.

Project Management and Design

Project Management and Design gives an introductory overview of some software engineering techniques. There are no lectures, but a reader is available for self-study. Students have to write a project plan, a design and a planning for their project. Writing these documents is a group activity.


In Sketching basic skills will be developed for the expression of ideas and concepts through sketching. With practical lab training the basic principles of perspective drawing are taught. Topics are: perspective and drawing, rules for shapes and environments, learning to look and see the construction of the 3d world, design drawing as a tool in the early stage of product development, drawing as a communication tool, drawing as an aid for idea development.

For sketching, four hours of lectorials are scheduled each week. During these hours, students work on small assignments. Each week the students have to work on one assignment. In the course of the module, the students build a portfolio containing the drawings made for both the sketching assignments and the drawings for the project.

Professional development 

The aim of the professional development course is to teach students methods to achieve their professional aims, build a personal brand, and continuously develop their skills. The Wednesday afternoon is reserved for Professional Development. Each student is assigned to a personal mentor that will guide the student throughout his or her study. The mentor will help the student getting started in the study and taking control of their own (study) career. As a student, you will work independently on your showcase portfolio web site, using skills obtained in the rest of the module, to make yourself a brand. Towards the end of the module, you will write an individual reflection essay.

As from module 2 onwards, you can take each module a personal challenge for roughly 20h that grows new or strengthens existing skills. Examples of challenges are: build-up courses (math, physics, programming), language courses, cultural challenges as offered each quartile by the Vrijhof cultural department, or a challenge defined and set-up by the student him or herself and approved by the mentor.

As part of the ‘challenge’ in the PD activities of module 2 it will be possible to do a build-up physics course during module 2. This course is intended for students that did not take physics in the final stage of their pre-university education and are missing some basic knowledge. The subjects that will be treated are: Electricity (and Magnetism), Mechanics (Newton), Energy and Work, Appling the Laws of Physics ( e.g. Newton ‘s, Ohm ‘s, Hooke ‘s law ), Use of Physical Units ( m/s, kg/m3, A/m2, Volt, etc. ), Analogies (to help to bridge the gap between existing knowledge and new physical principles and phenomena).