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Here’s what teens built at Drexel’s annual Summer Music Tech program

The free, weeklong program for 23 Philadelphia high schoolers produced everything from fruit keyboards to robot-controlled guitars.
Malcolm Lampkin turned a kiwi into a keyboard last week.

He designed musical loops in Apple’s Garage Band app, hooked a computer up to the kiwi (and a banana and an apple) via a MaKey MaKey kit and called it Fruit Loops — no tin foil needed.

“Fruits are great conductors,” Lampkin, 15, of Horsham, said, “because of the juices.”

Lampkin was one of 23 students who participated in Drexel’s eighth annual Summer Music Technology Program. The free, weeklong program teaches ninth- and 10th-grade students about the technology behind music and how to use hardware like 3D printers and Arduino microcontrollers to create music projects.

Graduate and undergraduate students working in Drexel professor Youngmoo Kim’s lab help teach the course, where every student gets access to an iPad and uses apps developed by Drexel students.

malcolm lampkin

Malcolm Lampkin (center right) shows off his project, “Fruit Loops.” (Photo by Juliana Reyes)

The first six years of the program were backed by a National Science Foundation grant, while the last two years were funded by local tech entrepreneur Clifford Stevens, said Kim, the program’s founder. The camp accepts about 20 students each year and gives priority to students who live in Philadelphia, said Kara Lindstrom, who helps to run the camp.

Here’s what else the students made:

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  • 3D-printed instruments, like a guitar, “pitchy panpipes” and a guitar pick.
  • A robot-controlled guitar, where one Arduino controlled three different actions: tuning, fingering and picking. (“We were inspired by [Drexel’s] magnetic resonator piano,” one student said. “If Drexel could build a stringed robot instrument thing, we could, too.”)
  • Stuffed animals that made animal sounds, using a MaKey MaKey.
  • Little keyboards that played songs like the Super Mario Bros. theme.
arduino guitar

These students built an Arduino-powered guitar. (Photo by Juliana Reyes)

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