San Francisco alumni bring sound to life with LEGOs and iPads
June 13, 2012
“Which instrument’s the most fun to play?” Elementary school students the nation over have pondered that question for decades. Taking the leap from plastic recorder to the weight and maturity of say, a trombone, can be daunting; but kids at the Acoustics and Music Technology: Bringing Sound to Life event in San Francisco on May 23 had a host of instrumental opportunities at their fingertips beyond mere brass or strings.
Omer Trajman, E00, and his son Gideon, bring sound to life using LEGOs and iPad apps with Professor Chris Rogers in San Francisco.
The event, sponsored by Tufts Alumni, asked more than 50 alumni and their children to create their own musical instruments using a combination of LEGOs and the iPad app Garageband. Explains attendee Tim Nelson, E04, EG07, “A small computer interface connected the LEGO sensor devices and motors—sensors that detected things like proximity and movement, and motors with wheels you could spin at varying speeds, among other things.”
Using the sensors and motors and manipulating them in different ways, adds Nelson, created a variety of sounds with different pitches and tempos. The devices were then integrated into the LEGO structures to create instruments.
The instruments produced from the workshop ranged from truly outside the box to traditional, many “with the potential to ‘embellish’ an orchestra or wind ensemble sound,” says Nelson, especially in a “New Age” setting. In all instances fun, learning, and innovation played a part in the creative process and it was clear that the “inventors” were letting a creative spirit take over.
"Engineering education for all"
Chris Rogers, professor of mechanical engineering, was on hand for helpful hints throughout the workshop, later giving a presentation on creativity in the classroom and what he says is “a need for engineering education for all.”
“He made a lot of points that made so much sense,” Nelson adds of Rogers’s emphasis on the benefits of an interactive learning process. “What really hit home for me were his comments about the traditional style of teaching children, which focuses a lot on memorization and doesn't leave a lot of room for creativity.”
Timothy Martin, E13, performed an original composition on a small “table harp” that he had built in class with Professor Rogers—just another reminder for Nelson of his own integration of music and engineering at Tufts.
Now a designer at Degenkolb Engineers in San Francisco, Nelson says the performance brought him back to the days of “playing in the wind ensemble and conducting Torn Ticket II musicals. It also made me even more intrigued by the new music auditorium, which I’ve yet to see!”