As part of the York Learning and Teaching Conference 2019 on the 21st of June, three AudioLab academics, Dr Jude Brereton, Prof Andy Hunt, and Dr Frank Stevens ran an interactive workshop entitled “Let’s engineer a musical instrument together: Creating effective staff-student partnerships for problem-based learning in engineering”. This workshop was designed to give conference delegates a flavour of the MSc module “Interfacing for Audio and Music” by asking them to make use of littleBits modules to create electronic instruments, and to perform a concert at then end of the session.
littleBits are a series of modular electronic devices designed for use in STEAM pedagogy. The modules are easily combined with one another thanks to their magnetic connectors, so they are excellent for prototyping circuits and learning about circuit design. The current range of littleBits includes a number of Korg modules which allow for the creation of electronic musical instruments based on elements of the legendaryKorg MS-20: oscillators, a filter, an envelope generator, a delay, etc. In preparation for this conference, Frank, Jude, and Andy designed three ‘instrument packs’ to allow workshop attendees to make three instruments: a drum machine, a bass synthesiser, and a lead synthesiser. The tweet below includes a video demonstrating the drum machine:
— UOYForum (@UOYForum) June 21, 2019
After an instrument design and prototyping session Andy Hunt then conducted the three groups through a short performance of kosmische electronic goodness. The session was designed to reflect the experiences of students on the Interfacing for Audio and Music module, where they are asked to design either a musical instrument, a music performance analysis tool, or a sonification interface. Students taking this module are given considerable freedom in their project work, with academic support tailored to their individual needs, an approach in line with the theme of this year’s York Learning and Teaching Conference: staff-student partnerships.
The workshop proved to be a great success, with overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees. There are plans to make use of the session materials in future outreach events, at which time the instrument packs details and activity sheets will be made available on the AudioLab website.