Ins and Outs with Max and Arduino

Scott Fitzgerald will be leading one of nine community-driven workshops at Expo ’74 in Brooklyn this October. Read on for more information about his workshop and some history of his work.


Ins and Outs with Max and Arduino

This workshop will focus on communication between Max and the popular Arduino hardware platform. We will explore how serial communication works on the Arduino, an effective means of getting information back and forth. The focus will not be on sensors per se, but on communicating with Max. However, basic electronic circuits will be covered. While this workshop is designed for all Max users, it would be very beneficial for participants to familiarize themselves with the platform beforehand. The more people come prepared, the more content we can cover.

To participate in this workshop, ideally, you should bring an Arduino, or Arduino clone, a USB cable, and have the latest version of the Arduino software installed. If you have sensors or transducers you wish to use, all the better! It will make the workshop much more enjoyable. If you don’t have the tools, people should expect to share. Scott will bring a few extra boards for people to use.

A Short Interview with Scott Fitzgerald

Who are you and what do you do?

Like a lot of Max users, I wear a number of different hats. Sort of a hybrid artist/educator/researcher/consultant. I’ve been working with digital tools in an artistic context for the last decade, teaching Physical Computing at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), running workshops, and assisting other artists and clients with technical matters.

I used to work with a lot of video, particularly in a live performance setting, but the past 5 years I’ve been working with getting software and hardware to communicate with one another to do interesting things. Often this takes the form of large LED works like the Cafe at Conde Nast with 75,000 RGB LEDs, Leo Villareal’s LED sculptures, and a permanent piece I just finished at the University of Oslo. Recently, I’ve been working with the Arduino project, creating example code and documenting new products and libraries.

When and why did you start using Max?

I was first introduced to Max in 2000 when I saw the Freight Elevator Quartet play in lower Manhattan. I was absolutely fascinated by the images projected to accompany the band. I later found out “Luke (DuBois) makes all that weird stuff with some program called Max”. I didn’t get into actually using Max until a few years later when I was a graduate student at ITP, when I took classes with Dan Palkowski, and Luke. The first thing I ever made with Max involved a microcontroller and a NES control pad working as a video mixer. It was very rudimentary, but the moment I got information from the physical world onscreen, I was hooked.

At the time, the choices for creative expression with code were pretty slim. Flash/Actionscript and Director were the two most commonly used applications, and neither held much appeal to me. The quickly prototyped and robust applications I could put together with Max were a blessing for a mediocre programmer like myself. Also, I found the patching paradigm much easier to understand, particularly when it came time to think about sound+image working in tandem.

What technology or person’s work intrigues you most right now?

Hans Steiner’s work on PD-extended is pretty inspiring, and a testament to how open source projects can greatly benefit from user’s input. Over the last several years, his contributions have made PD much more accessible and user friendly. In addition to the UI work, he also has taken the most commonly used libraries and included them in the package, taking a lot of the hassle out of getting up and running. Hans has also been involved with embedding PD’s libraries in PDAs and other devices and software like Android and OpenFrameworks, which expands the potential of the software even more.

I also think Syphon is an amazing tool, and the people that put it together deserve massive respect. Being able to freely share video from one application to another is such an obvious idea, I’m surprised it wasn’t implemented years ago.

What is the most exciting part of attending Expo ’74?

Getting to meet the members of the community and seeing what awesomely inspiring projects they are working on. The Max community has some incredibly creative people making fantastic tools and applications. I expect to be inspired from the work as much as the people themselves.

Learn More About Scott

Ins and Outs with Max and Arduino

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