Posts Tagged 'Sound Editing'

DIY Sound Studio


With the BPS Fab Cart’s first foray into the Passions just wrapped up, the excitement of starting the next round is in the air. The first three weeks of the DIY Sound Studio Passion kicked off with a quick intro to the basic physics of sound, building model eardrums, and learning how to make a chopstick turntable.

The kids hooted, hummed, sang, and hollered at their model eardrums, red plastic Solo cups with a latex glove pulled tight over the top, and learned how sound waves cause eardrums to vibrate by using their voices to bounce a layer of salt on top of the latex. Continuing the investigation of sound as vibrations, the kids were shown how records are the physical analog imprints of recorded sound, and were then given a challenge to play a record with only a chopstick, a needle, some tape, and the cup from their model eardrum. It was amazing how quickly they solved the problem, figuring out how to use the cup with a needle run through the bottom of it as a combination player/speaker. Working in teams of two they put the records on the chopsticks, and while one turned the record with the chopstick the other placed the needle on the record, and to their amazement the sound was amplified through the cup.

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The projects moved from the analog to the digital, and the sound editing software, Audacity was introduced to the kids starting with how to create tracks, and generate tones. The kids tested the tones they generated by making a non-newtonian fluid out of cornstarch and water, and watching it “move to the music” on the speakers they patched their sounds through. These visual cues as they related to the audio provided the kids a great opportunity to learn about frequency and amplitude, make an absolute mess, and have a blast doing it. This project was one that they never seemed to grow tired of, and many of them revisited it even during the final week.


The kids combined the sounds and tones they were making in Audacity with Garage Band, and many of them brought their own music passions into the mix, recording their instruments, and building compositions. The final week involved the kids in learning about how speakers function, and then building their own. They played their sound compositions through these DIY speakers, and through iterative processes gradually refined their speakers to produce clearer, and louder sounds. Some of the kids even started making headphones out of the magnets and wire.

This next round of Passions will introduce the kids to circuit bending, making contact microphones from piezos, and modifying speakers to cut their own records on old cds, as well as to begin building their own interactive instruments in Scratch that will interface with objects through MakeyMakey boards. Based on the absorbed engagement of the kids, and studio-like atmosphere that developed over the course of the first DIY Sound Studio Passion, I’m sure the kids will be producing amazing things in the weeks to come, and I’m looking forward to being around all that great energy.

And here I want to point to the energy and enthusiasm the teachers, Tarrey, and Emily have brought to table. These two amazing teachers have really carried forward to the kids the excitement of their own discoveries with the projects and processes. And this is critical, because the teachers’ adoption of the Maker/DIY culture as it exists around the Fab Lab environment into their own culture in the school environment can only happen with their own engagement with the tools and processes. And this informal format of the Passions at BPS is a perfect vehicle to allow these adoptions to occur. These are opportunities for not just the children, but also for the teachers, and this is such an important element in allowing for the possibility of perhaps even the “formal” classroom itself to be a makerspace.

— Christian McKay —


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