Harvard + Arduinos at the Think-Do House

Stephen Ervin, Assistant Dean for Information Technology at Harvard Design School, recently visited the Perry Ave Commons as part of an ongoing partnership between Sweet Water Foundation and Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. During the visit, Dr. Ervin toured the Commons, provided feedback on upcoming design projects, and led a workshop to introduce Sweet Water Foundation staff to possibility of Arduinos.

As staff walked into the basement of the Think-Do House for the Dr. Ervin’s workshop, a roll of hundreds of LED lights flickered between a plethora of beautiful colors; all controlled by the Arduino computer chip that was programmed to “tell” each individual light what to do.

Sweet Water Foundation staff and other attendees learned the basic principles of Arduino projects through a simple demonstration of the Arduino-programmed LED lights that Dr. Ervin coded in real-time. The group, then, discussed the possibilities of using Arduino technology as a low-cost and easy way to use sensors to create devices that interact with their environment.

Soon, the ideas were flowing as attendees brainstormed ways to integrate Arduino technology into life at the Perry Ave Commons.


"With the right sensors, the lights could be programmed to show which plants in the greenhouse need watering. We could program them to be red, yellow, or green to show which plants need water the most…"

“The lights could respond to guests arriving at the Think-Do House...creating a unique arrival experience…”

“We could create a design with the LED light strips and program them to light up the Think-Do Pod at night…”

“Or, we can program the lights to say ‘Sweet Water Foundation’...”


Dr. Stephen Ervin was an inspiration to the team and left a lasting impression during his visit to Sweet Water Foundation. The Sweet Water Foundation team looks forward to welcoming Dr. Ervin back in the near future to see the team’s Arduino projects progress and looks forward to many future collaborations with the Harvard Graduate School of Design at the Perry Ave Commons.

Jia Li Pratt