We often see undergraduate students take a top-down approach when working with physical computing. In these cases, a limited understanding of a technology can hinder the creative potential of a project.

The Sensor Smörgåsbord

The ActuatorBoard

With these two tools, we aim to demystify various sensing and actuating technologies by providing examples of how they work. This allows the student to, for example; understand limitations in range and bandwidth of a device, get a feel for physical form and material properties and see the quality of the data produced by a device.

The Sensor Smörgåsbord maps the output of the sensors to an 8*8 LED matrix. The matrix has two switchable modes of operation: bar graph and single-point. These offer 8 and 64 steps of resolution respectively. The higher resolution setting allows the user to see e.g. handling noise.
The user changes between sensors using a scroll wheel, and an LED under each of the sensors lights up when that sensor is active.

The Sensor Smörgåsbord

The Sensor Smörgåsbord navigation panel

The Sensor Smörgåsbord Flex and Force sensors

The Sensor Smörgåsbord Air Quality, Temperature and Light sensors.

The sensors on the board are; Potentiometer, Linear SoftPot, Rotary SoftPot, Air Quality, Temperature, Light (Light Dependent Resistor), PIR Motion, Ultrasonic Proximity, Infrared Proximity, Accelerometer, Magnometer, Tilt, Piezo (configured as a button), Flex and Force


The ActuatorBoard offers local simple mappings, in most cases a button actuates the device momentarily. Oher mappings have been devised to reflect the basic software interface to these devices. For example, the Servo requires that the number of degrees are set using the potentiometer, then the Servo is turned in the direction determined by a button press.

The ActuatorBoard Shape Memory Alloy and 7-Segment display

The ActuatorBoard 2*16 character LCD display

The Actuator Board DC Motor, Servo, Piezo, Solenoid and Vibration Motor

The actuators on the board are; Stepper Motor, Servo Motor, DC Motor, Peltier Element, Piezo Buzzer, Vibration Motor, Air Pump, Solenoid, Fan, 2*16 Character LCD Display, 7-Segment Display, RGB LED, Shape Memory Alloy.

The boards are available for loan if you are a teacher or researcher at ITU and want to use them to aid your teaching. Please contact us to arrange a meeting.