6.811: Principles and Practice of Assistive Technology, Fall 2014

6.811: Principles and Practice of Assistive Technology (PPAT)

Fall 2014

Video Credit: Ben Glass and Tommy Girdwood

Course Details:

  • MIT Course Calendar Listing
  • Lectures: Monday and Wednesday, 1pm-2pm in 32-144.
  • Labs: Monday and Wednesday, 3-5 pm in 32-044
  • Fall 2014 Instructors: Rob Miller, Grace Teo, William Li
  • What is 6.811: Principles and Practice of Assistive Technology (PPAT)?

    PPAT is a 12-unit, interdisciplinary, project-based course in which small teams of students work closely with a person with a disability in the Cambridge area to design a device, piece of equipment, app, or other solution that helps them live more independently. Over the course of the term, each team meets with its "client," iterates through multiple prototypes, and learns about the challenges and realities of designing assistive technologies for people with disabilities.

    If you would like to stay informed about PPAT, you can:

  • Subscribe to our newsletter email list for periodic updates about our course.
  • Follow our class blog, which will feature updates from students and instructors in the class.
  • Like our Facebook page<
  • Contact us at ppat@csail.mit.edu
  • Here is a recent EECS News article about developing assistive technologies at MIT.

    What are some past student projects?

    Some examples of past projects have included:
  • an iPhone app for detecting clothing colors and patterns to help a blind person dress independently;
  • binoculars for birdwatching that are accessible without the use of hands;
  • a bicycle with sensing and a haptic interface designed for a blind ride;
  • an Android-based task reminder and sequencing system for a person with a brain injury causing deficits in working memory;
  • a blind-accessible modification to an otherwise inaccessible espresso machine;
  • a customized mouse event handler for someone using only his eyes to control the mouse;
  • voice-controlled tablet-based software to control various aspects of the user's environment;
  • a custom "no-spill" spoon for a person with a spinal cord injury to eat more easily.
  • Along with the project, the course includes guest lectures from clinicians in rehabilitation, human-computer interface experts, product designs, and people living with physical or cognitive impairments, and lab exercises in which students use and evaluate various assistive technologies.

    Should I take PPAT?

    We seek students from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines. Any experience in design is helpful, but not necessary. Teams of two to three students will complement each other's skill sets. Many of the students are in Courses 2 and 6, but students from all majors are welcome.

    This course is a good fit for students interested in public service, user-centered product design, working closely with a client with a disability (potentially in consultation with their caregivers and/or clinicians), and tackling difficult, real-world problems. In the past three years, it has received course ratings of 6.4, 6.6, and 6.4 overall.

    Who is teaching PPAT?

    PPAT was founded, taught, and championed by Professor Seth Teller, who conceived of the course and taught PPAT in 2011, 2012, and 2013.

    We are very proud to be offering PPAT once again in Fall 2014. The course will be overseen by Professor Rob Miller (EECS), led by co-lecturers William Li and Grace Teo, and supported by a team of PPAT alumni, including Michelle Chen, Abigail Klein, and Ishwarya Ananthabhotla. We will also have a number of guest lecturers and panel members from the assistive technology and disability communities from the Boston area and beyond.

    Please contact us at ppat@csail.mit.edu with any questions.