At my school, we offer an interdisciplinary, project based course: Sound Design and Programming. I wanted to showcase a final trimester project that I had the opportunity to help out with, that really highlighted the connections students made between music and programming. Students used MaKey MaKey‘s and Scratch to create musical instruments and games. The goal: have Scratch read from external sensors (in this case, the MaKey MaKey) and create music in response to the signals received.
- To explore the musical principles of form, rhythm, duration, melody, texture, timbre, composition, and performance
- To experience the computational and physical principles of sensor interfacing, electrical conductivity, triggering, and event listing.
- To help students gain an understanding of open versus closed circuits (using the MaKey MaKey) and be able to predict when a circuit is open or closed
- To use Scratch for students to make a basic event based program
To discuss ease of use for a user interface
In this final project for the trimester-long course, students had the freedom to create a game or instrument based on their passions, whether that meant it focused more on programming or musicality. Each group had to reach a level of complexity in their projects, incorporating the various programming elements they had learned in the first two months of the class. Each group’s journey was unique. Students came up with their own project ideas and their self-propelled ideas lead them to learn advanced programming code in the process. If they wanted to make something happen, they had to figure out how to do it! Their teachers were there to guide and provide instruction along the way, but students drove the process.
One group chose to create a Whack a Mole Game and in the process discovered that they needed a deeper understanding of Scratch. Equipped with those questions, the learning process began to unfold in a truly authentic way. The students wanted to create an array, though they didn’t know that the idea was possible to program. If you look at a whack-a-mole game, it looks like a grid of moles that pop up from their holes at random and the goal is to smack them down. An array is a way to store multiple values in a single variable. So, using an array enables students to create the grid-like structure of a whack-a-mole game. But the students knew what they were trying to achieve. This is where Mr. Stanford stepped in and provided guidance and a multi-day lesson for the group. What they achieved was truly awesome.
This video captures the work’s final product:
This video capture students sharing their projects with our Lower School students: