Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Physics Students Create Music

Over the past few months, AP Physics students have worked to design and build musical instruments using the school's new EFX lab. The students created prototypes of 3-D printed, laser-cut and Arduino-controlled instruments, including an instrument they named a "clute," a cross between a conventional clarinet and a flute; a "do taar," a two-string instrument modification of the Eastern one-string setaar; and the "marble xylo," a percussion instrument, which resembles a xylophone.

Early on in the design phase, the class quickly realized that translating their knowledge of standing waves and sound into a functional design came with many challenges. Playing the "clute" and the "do taar" proved particularly difficult, since none of the students working on those instruments were musicians.

"We definitely aren't a musical group," said Olivia Parsons '18, who worked with Quinn Carlisle '19, Reagan McCall '18, and Paola Karapataki '18 to produce the cardboard do taar. "We had worked on waves in class, so we had some knowledge of wavelength and frequency, but we didn't know much about musical instruments."

In the end, each group managed to play their own version of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" on their instruments.

Instructor in Physics Anju Taneja said the project helped students realize that design is an iterative cycle of prototyping, testing, isolating flaws, and constant refining, which requires a lot of patience, commitment, and work.

But, she added, the "initial doubts students had about the viability of their designs eventually dissipated once they heard the music coming from the instruments," she said.

Watch a video demonstration.

Physics Musical 3-D Instruments from The Hotchkiss School on Vimeo.

Marble xylo: William Chartener '18, Benjamin Meyers '19, and Hyla Mosher '19

The clute: Olivia Parsons '18, Quinn Carlisle '19, Reagan McCall '18, and Paola Karapataki '18

Do taar: Sawyer Bush '18, Saskia Penfold '19, and Constantine Tzougarakis '18

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