Emily Sticco is one of the stellar music teachers at The School at Columbia University, and I’m excited to co-teach an 8th grade mini-course, #BitsOfMusic, with her. Emily was inspired to do a music/tech project for her 10-week elective and reached out in late August to start planning. She wanted “the students to compose an original piece of music and based on the music have something move, light up, or just respond to the music they composed.”
I discussed two possible projects with Emily. We’re in the middle of the first project now — the students are building and programming a Cardboard Jam Band. This can be super simple or more nuanced depending on the students. The tasks:
1. Design a 2D or 3D instrument with 5 “keys” that are conductive and provide input for the MakeyMakey to inform the Scratch program.
2. Create chords or notes in GarageBand or some other music program or choose notes/chords/sounds in Scratch.
3. Adapt Eric Rosenbaum and Jay Silver’s amazing MakeyMakey Scratch Piano program to include 5 chosen sounds. (Students decide the note, duration, octave, instrument, etc.)
4. Hook up their instrument to a MakeyMakey and jam with a few classmates.
5. Shoot a music video (possibly optional).
Thank goodness for the wonderful #MakerEd community and multitude of educators, crafters, and students who share tweets, videos, and blog posts of their projects. One of my students is making a cardboard trombone. I told him to Google and see what’s out there, and naturally we immediately came across @JoshBurker‘s awesome blog post about just this very project! Josh is a master tinkerer, Maker-in-Residence at the Westport Library, and author of The Invent to Learn Guide to Fun. I’m very lucky to have him in my PLN.
Our second project will entail having students compose original music either independently or in pairs and then have their music launch… something. I still have time to pin down the specifics, and I’ve told Emily we have a few options when it comes to having a sound sensor (microphone) input and motors/light output. We can use LEGO WeDo kits, LEGO NXT kits, littleBits, Arduino boards, or even Stephen Lewis’s Make!Things kits. I like the idea of the microphone sound sensor being placed near the computers’ speakers, and then based on the bass or loudness or some chosen variable, their sculpture or wall piece (or even a tshirt) would light-up and have moving parts. It occurred to me that this could even be an autonomous self-running piece, like some sort of installation, that reacts to any sounds. So, placing it in the cafeteria during lunch would make it go bonkers…