6.811: Principles and Practice of Assistive Technology, Fall 2016

6.811/2.78/HST.420:
Principles and Practice of Assistive Technology (PPAT)

Fall 2017


Video Credit: Ben Glass and Tommy Girdwood

Boston Globe Article
Boston Globe: A Project from PPAT at the Boston Home (Pic: WENDY MAEDA/BOSTON GLOBE)
Boston Globe Article
Boston Globe: PPAT wheelchair lab (Pic: DAVID L. RYAN/BOSTON GLOBE)

Course Details:

  • MIT Course Catalog Listing
  • PLEASE NOTE: First class will be Wednesday, September 6th @ 11am in 32-044
  • Class: MW 11am-1pm in 32-044.
  • Instructors: Julie Greenberg, Rob Miller, John Leonard, Anna Young
  • Teaching Assistant: Abraham Shin
  • Lab Assistants: Nikolas Albarran, Tina Quach
  • What is PPAT: Principles and Practice of Assistive Technology ?

    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 Boston/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 their client, iterates through multiple prototypes, and learns about the challenges and realities of designing assistive technologies for people with disabilities.

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

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

  • Subscribe to our newsletter email list for periodic updates about our course.
  • Like our Facebook page
  • Read our past class blog, which includes posts from instructors and students in past classes.
  • Contact the staff at ppat@mit.edu
  • Here is a EECS News article about developing assistive technologies at MIT.

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

    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 iPad app to help residents in an assistive care facility call for help more accessibly
  • 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.
  • Videos of Past Projects

    Along with the project, the course includes guest lectures from experts in rehabilitation, human-computer interfaces, 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 three to four 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 several years, students have consistently given PPAT overall ratings of 6.2 - 6.4 out of 7 in end-of-term subject evaluations.

    Course 6 Majors

    Course 6 majors can use 6.811 as an EECS Independent Inquiry subject under the new curriculum, or as an Advanced Undergraduate Subject under the old curriculum.

    Course 2 Majors

    Course 2 majors can petition to use 2.78 as a restricted elective. Students in 2-A can use 2.78 as a concentration subject - no petition needed.

    Other Majors

    We encourage students from all technical backgrounds to take PPAT. If you are interested, come to the first class and investigate how PPAT can count towards your degree requirements.