Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


Computer Engineering

First Advisor

James Hedrick

Second Advisor

Aaron Cass

Third Advisor

Chris Fernandes




appliance, burner, design, students, user


Union College has a usability science course in which students design the user controls for appliances such as stoves and alarm clocks. Students then evaluate their designs by creating and having people use a cardboard mock-up of the appliance to see how easily users accomplish given tasks. With these mock-ups students manually simulate the appliance behavior. For example, to simulate the lighting of a stove burner, the student might replace a black piece of paper (representing an unlit burner) with a red one (representing a lit burner). Such manual manipulation distracts the user. The purpose of this project was to replace these prototypes with a system that provides direct interaction between the simulated appliance and the user. The goal was to design and create an easily modifiable platform onto which various input and output “widgets”, such as knobs or LEDs, could be added or removed to fit with the current student's design. It was important that the system allow the widgets to be placed anywhere on the platform so that multiple appliance layouts can use the same behavior. We have designed and implemented a system that achieves these goals with a perfect blend of software and hardware.