Digital Farm: Topics in Experimental Interfaces INTM-SHU-246

New York University, Shanghai, IMA

Professor Dan Mikesell


Office: RM 939

Tues, Thurs, Friday 3:15-4:30pm

Office Hours: Tues 1:30-2:30 (by appointment)

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Commodity crop farming is a billion dollar industry with big players selling black box systems incorporated into their farming machinery. It seems bizarre to consider that John Deere and Caterpillar likely spend as much time on digital rights management as a mid level software company. Rather than take on a market of that scale we will be focusing on how we can design systems and interfaces for our LAF (Local Area Farm) which incorporates  plants situated around  NYUSH in areas we have designated as good for supporting plant life. This class looks at plant science and how we can use technology to enable small and urban plant growing. Areas of exploration will include hydroponics, soil growing, sensor monitoring, and experiments in plant interactions.

The Class will be broken into three parts: Plant and Soil Science, Soil Gardening and Hydroponic Gardening. The time required to bring plants to harvest will dictate that these topics will not be chronological but mixed through the course timeline.

Expected Outcomes and Areas of Exploration

  1. develop devices for urban farming
  2. hydroponics, watering, monitoring vs soil
  3. calculate solar exposure to determine best locations
  4. germinating seed vs seedlings
  5. artificial light control
  6. student engagement
  7. conceptualize seed as biological component with datasheet (pinout) on how to use it (grow it)


Grading Policy

Grading will be based on student’s grasp of concepts, execution, creativity and presentation, as well as the quality of the work relative to the overall class quality.

Weekly Lab Exercises or presentations other than midterm or final (in total) – 30%

Attendance, Progress, Participation, Quizzes, and Focus—20%

Mid term project- 20%

Final project- 30%

*Assignments must be completed on time. If you turn your assignment in 1 day late, your grade will drop by 5%; 2 days = 10%; 3 days = 15%; etc.


Each unexcused absence automatically deducts 5% from the Attendance, Progress, and Participation portion of your grade.

Absences can only be excused due to your own illness or a death in the family. I appreciate you communicating your reasons to me, but I cannot excuse any absence without documentation. If you miss class due to illness, you must obtain a doctor’s note. (If you are too sick to come to class, you need to see a doctor anyway!)

Arriving unreasonably late, leaving early, or disappearing for large portions of the class will count as a tardy and two tardies equals an unexcused absence.

If you arrive late to class it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to notify the instructor. Otherwise you may be marked absent.

You are responsible for keeping track of the number of absences and tardies you have accrued during the quarter.

You may be excused for a break by the instructor. Break times will be specified. Returning late from breaks or leaving early before being excused will count as a tardy.

If you are absent, you are responsible for making up lost assignments. Do not contact the instructor for information missed during your absence. You must obtain this information from a classmate.

If you come to class unprepared or have to leave to retrieve your materials, you will not receive full attendance credit.

Progress, Participation and Focus

Students must demonstrate increased understanding of concepts throughout the quarter.

All students must participate in class discussion and critiques. Ask questions, challenge peers, and offer suggestions and criticism.

In addition to working steadily throughout class studio time, students must work outside of class, and this must be demonstrated in the work.

Socializing on topics not related to class during class time, lack of energy, and slow progress will result in a lower grade in this area.

Attending class while unprepared, working on assignments for other courses, and using your cell phone or computer for purposes unrelated to the class will result in a reduction of your participation grade.

Because this is the first time this class is being taught changes to this syllabus, the schedule and grading procedure could happen at any time.

8/30-10/7 Plant and soil science

10/11-10/29 – Hydroponic science

11/1-12/1 – Interactive Project investigation

12/2- 12/15- Final Projects


Required Texts

Horticulture Today

By Jodi Riedel and Elizabeth Driscoll

Gardening Indoors with Soil and Hydroponics.

By George F. Van Patten