November 1, 2017

IAP 2018: Sensing for Resilience and Sustainability

This new IAP subject will teach how to design and build sensor systems for environmental monitoring. A resilient community depends on knowledge of the environmental stressors it must cope with (e.g. storms, floods); that data is obtained from sensors. A sustainable community needs to measure the effectiveness of environmental mediation strategies, those measurements also come from sensors. Thus resilient and sustainable communities rely on data from a variety of sensors embedded in or observing the environment. Whether you are analyzing data from existing sensors, building a sensor network from off the shelf parts, or designing a new sensor system, it is essential to have a good working knowledge of sensors and the electronics and software necessary to read, transmit and store sensor data. That is the focus of this subject. We will start with an electronics “boot camp” in which you will learn enough theory and practical knowledge to understand the electronics that underlie sensors and sensing systems. You will then learn about microcontrollers, how to interface sensors to them and how to use them as data loggers. Next the basic characteristics common to all sensors, and the specific properties of the major types of sensors will be presented with plenty of hands-on demonstrations. You will then apply your knowledge to build and program a data logging sensor system that you will use to measure something in the real world (inside or outside). Finally you will analyze your data and present it in a short written report.

This is an ideal subject for freshmen who want to learn about electronics and sensors – very useful stuff for future UROP projects; students in the ESI Minor Program; science students who want to learn what’s in the black boxes they use in the lab; policy or economics students who want to understand of how environmental data is generated; or anybody who wants to learn how make measurements in the world around them.

This is a one week intensive subject that will meet for three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon for an entire week. There are no prerequisites or required textbooks but please bring a notebook and pen to class. Limit 16 students

2.S975 Undergraduate Special Subject in Mechanical Engineering (New)
3 Units, P/D/F, Instructor/Contact Person: Dr. Thomas R. Consi (
Monday Jan. 22, to Friday, Jan. 26 (5 days) 9am – 12pm, 1pm – 4pm (6 hours/day)
Location: MIT Sea Grant Teaching Laboratory, NW98-186, 12 Emily St., Cambridge


An arduino connected to temperature and humidity sensors. Photo curtsey of