David A. Mellis

David A. Mellis is a software architect at Autodesk, building software for circuit design. His work seeks to engage new audiences in using electronics for creative and do-it-yourself practices. Previously, David was a post-doc at UC Berkeley with Björn Hartmann. David completed his graduate studies at the MIT Media Lab, getting his PhD in Mitchel Resnick's Lifelong Kindergarten group and his master's in Leah Buechley's High-Low Tech group. Prior to the Media Lab, David taught at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (Denmark). He has a master's in interaction design from the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea (Italy). David is one of the creators of Arduino, an open-source hardware and software platform for electronic prototyping.

Email: dam@mellis.org. Twitter: @mellis.
Photos: flickr/mellis. Code: github/damellis.

CV: David Mellis

Interfaces for Interactivity
Do-It-Yourself Devices
Physical Computing
Open-Source Hardware
Digital Fabrication

Design for DIY Manufacturing In this semester-long graduate studio course, students designed and fabricated custom electronic devices. (MIT Media Lab, Spring 2012)

Arduino & Physical Computing I've taught a variety of Arduino-based workshops, including a sci-fi inspired course at MIT and RISD, a one-week intensive at the CIID Summer School, an e-textile workshop at Columbia College, and more.


Interfaces for Interactivity

Software tools to support the construction of interactive physical projects.

Machine Learning for Makers (Applied to Real-Time Sensor Data)

This project aims to help novices make sophisticated use of sensors in interactive projects through the application of machine learning. Our ESP (Example-based Sensor Prediction) system leverages expert examples to support users in applying machine learning to a wide range of real-time sensor-based applications. By customizing the ESP interface based on specific structures in the example code, we can provide end-users with a domain-specific machine learning system while requiring only minimal effort on the part of the example author. ESP examples include specification of sensor inputs, machine learning pipelines, calibration methods, and configuration parameters, along with training data. Our desktop interface allows for experimentation with live data, streaming of predictions to other software, calibration for specific sensors, expanding or modifying the training data, and tuning of the recognition pipeline.

David A. Mellis, Ben Zhang, Audrey Leung, and Björn Hartmann. 2017. Machine Learning for Makers: Interactive Sensor Data Classification Based on Augmented Code Examples. In Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (DIS '17). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1213-1225.

Do-It-Yourself Devices

Explorations into the personal fabrication of electronic devices, including designing for individual production and variation.

PhD Dissertation

My dissertation defense.

This dissertation investigates digital fabrication (of both electronic circuit boards and enclosures) as an alternative approach to DIY electronics, one that can support individuals in both making devices and using them in their daily lives. It contains two investigations. The first is a DIY cellphone, which I designed, have used in my own life, and helped others to make for themselves. The second investigation is a six-week workshop in which participants designed and made internet-connected devices. These investigations provide insights into the potential of and constraints on a personal fabrication approach to the make of everyday electronic devices.

David A. Mellis, Do-It-Yourself Devices: Personal Fabrication of Custom Electronic Products, PhD Dissertation, MIT, 2015.

Novice Design of Interactive Products

Introducing novices to circuit board design and production through the creation of relevant examples, activities, and other resources. Seeks to demystify the methods by which electronic products are created and to stimulate reflection on how more people might get involved in that process.

David A. Mellis, Leah Buechley, Mitchel Resnick, and Bjoern Hartmann, 2016. "Engaging Amateurs in the Design, Fabrication, and Assembly of Electronic Devices." In Proceedings of the Designing Interactive Systems Conference (DIS ’16). ACM.

DIY Cellphone: exploring the limits of DIY electronics

An exploration into the possibilities for individual construction and customization of the most ubiquitous of electronic devices, the cellphone. We investigate the implications of digital fabrication and open-source hardware for DIY practice. Research questions include:

David A. Mellis & Leah Buechley. 2014. Do-It-Yourself Cellphones: An Investigation into the Possibilities and Limits of High-Tech DIY. In Proceedings of the 32nd annual ACM conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI '14).


Master's Thesis
Case studies in the digital fabrication of open-source consumer electronic products.

Digital fabrication allows us to treat the designs of products as a kind of source code: files that can be freely shared, modified, and produced. These case studies combine traditional electronic circuit boards and components (a mature digital fabrication process) with laser-cut or 3D printed materials. They demonstrate multiple possibilities for individual customizations both pre- and post-fabrication, as well as a variety of potential production and distribution processes and scales.

David A. Mellis, Case Studies in the Digital Fabrication of Open-Source Consumer Electronic Products, Master's Thesis, MIT.

David A. Mellis and Leah Buechley. 2012. Case studies in the personal fabrication of electronic products. In Proceedings of the Designing Interactive Systems Conference (DIS '12). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 268-277.

David A. Mellis, Dana Gordon, and Leah Buechley. 2011. Fab FM: the design, making, and modification of an open-source electronic product. In Proceedings of the fifth international conference on Tangible, embedded, and embodied interaction (TEI '11).

Thesis Blog >>

Additional Publications

Jennifer Jacobs, David Mellis, Amit Zoran, Cesar Torres, Joel Brandt, and Joshua Tanenbaum. 2016. Digital Craftsmanship: HCI Takes on Technology as an Expressive Medium. In Proceedings of the 2016 ACM Conference Companion Publication on Designing Interactive Systems (DIS '16 Companion). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 57-60.

David A. Mellis, "Do-It-Yourself Fabrication of Electronic Devices", IEEE Pervasive Computing, vol.13, no. 3, pp. 22-29, July-Sept. 2014.

Morgan G. Ames, Jeffrey Bardzell, Shaowen Bardzell, Silvia Lindtner, David A. Mellis, and Daniela K. Rosner. 2014. Making cultures: empowerment, participation, and democracy - or not?. In Proceedings of the extended abstracts of the 32nd annual ACM conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI EA '14).

David A. Mellis. 2013. Do-it-yourself electronic products and the people who make them. In Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI '13). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 357-358.

Physical Computing

Tools and techniques for working with microcontrollers and electronics – and for integrating them with craft materials and practices.

An experimental extension for controlling Arduino boards using Scratch. With Kreg Hanning. (more)

Tools and techniques for working with microcontrollers as a craft material. (more)

Support for programming ATtiny microcontrollers with Arduino. (more)

Library for simple playback of audio samples with Arduino. (more)

TinyProgrammer: an easy-to-use circuit board for programming low-cost microcontrollers (more)

FabISP: a DIY circuit for programming microcontrollers. (more)

Daniel Drew, Julie L. Newcomb, William McGrath, Filip Maksimovic, David Mellis, and Björn Hartmann. 2016. The Toastboard: Ubiquitous Instrumentation and Automated Checking of Breadboarded Circuits. In Proceedings of the 29th Annual Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST '16). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 677-686.

David A. Mellis, Sam Jacoby, Leah Buechley, Hannah Perner-Wilson, and Jie Qi. 2013. Microcontrollers as material: crafting circuits with paper, conductive ink, electronic components, and an "untoolkit". In Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI '13). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 83-90.

Leah Buechley, David Mellis, Hannah Perner-Wilson, Emily Lovell, and Bonifaz Kaufmann. Living wall: programmable wallpaper for interactive spaces. In Proceedings of the international conference on Multimedia (MM '10).

Eric Rosenbaum, Evelyn Eastmond, and David Mellis. 2010. Empowering programmability for tangibles. In Proceedings of the fourth international conference on Tangible, embedded, and embodied interaction (TEI '10).

Mellis, D. A., Banzi, M., Cuartielles, D., and Igoe, T. 2007. Arduino: An open electronics prototyping platform. In Proceedings of the Conference on Human Factors in Computing (alt.chi) (CHI’07). ACM, New York.

Co-Founder: Arduino electronics prototyping platform

Open-Source Hardware

Sharing design files for others to make and modify yields diverse ecosystems and opportunities for creativity.

David Mellis and Leah Buechley. 2012. Collaboration in open-source hardware: third-party variations on the arduino duemilanove. In Proceedings of the ACM 2012 conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW '12).

David A. Mellis and Leah Buechley. 2011. Scaffolding Creativity with Open-Source Hardware. In Proceedings of the eighth internal conference on Creativity and Cognition 2011 (C&C '11).

Board Member: Open-Source Hardware Association

Digital Fabrication

Lego Designer: computationally generated, vinyl-cut decals for decorating Lego bricks (more)

Modular, laser-cut, press-fit wooden toy cars (more)

David Mellis, Sean Follmer, Björn Hartmann, Leah Buechley, and Mark D. Gross. 2013. FAB at CHI: digital fabrication tools, design, and community. In CHI '13 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA '13). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 3307-3310.

Class Work:
3D Design for Rapid Prototyping and Rendering
How To Make (Almost) Anything