Prepare to Design the Future
March 19–20, 2017: Training
March 20–22, 2017: Tutorials & Conference
San Francisco, CA

Make fast, learn fast: Introduction to prototyping with Arduino

Kathryn McElroy (IBM Watson), Kelly Lohr (IBM)
1:30pm–5:00pm Monday, March 20, 2017
Location: Tower Salon A

Who is this presentation for?

  • Designers with little to no experience with electronics who are interested in learning a new prototyping skill

What you'll learn

  • Learn how to do physical prototyping with the open source electronics platform Arduino


The internet of things and wearable technology markets are exploding with ideas, but many fail before they get manufactured. The best way to develop valuable, impactful products is by prototyping and testing them. Prototyping is now a necessary skill in all areas of design but is especially important for startups and individuals who are making physical and digital products.

Kathryn McElroy and Kelly Lohr explore current approaches to prototyping physical, electronics-based products and how prototyping relates to designing digital products. You’ll see and interact with a variety of low- to high-fidelity prototypes and learn how they were made before digging into open source electronics platform Arduino, as Kathryn and Kelly guide you through setup, building, and troubleshooting prototypes. Along the way, they share tips and tricks on how to break down complex ideas into smaller prototypes and how to write code for microcontrollers. (It’s easier than you think.)

At the workshop, you’ll get your own Arduino starter kit along with all the materials you need to build your first circuit and low-fidelity prototype, and you’ll leave with enough knowledge to keep building when you get home and turn your product ideas into physical realities.

Photo of Kathryn McElroy

Kathryn McElroy

IBM Watson

Kathryn McElroy is an advisory designer for the IBM Mobile Innovation Lab in Austin, Texas. Kathryn is an award-winning designer and photographer and is passionate about near-future technology and building electronics and smart objects. She has published tutorials of her projects in Make magazine and Fast Company and is currently writing a book, Prototyping for Designers, for O’Reilly. Kathryn regularly speaks about design thinking, prototyping, and user experience design. In her spare time, she volunteers to get girls involved in STEM fields by speaking at schools and after-school events and on career panels.

Photo of Kelly Lohr

Kelly Lohr


Kelly Lohr is a former material scientist turned designer with a passion for experimental design research. She enjoys making objects, systems, and situations that help her understand how people interact. She’s worked as an industrial designer for clients in personal care, pharmaceutical, and insurance industries while at the Chicago-based innovation firm GravityTank, as an in-house design strategist at Capital One, and now as a user experience designer at IBM.