Skip to main content

Sound machines with Lego @Maker Educator Meet-up

Sound machines with Lego @Maker Educator Meet-up

Last Thursday we had a meet-up for Bay Area Maker Educators (BAME) in the Learning Studio. This time, we shared one of our new activities that we have been developing recently - Sound Machines with Lego linkages.

MEM Sound Linkages
It was the end of the school year and we were little bit worried about the attendance since a lot of schools were already going into summer mode, but thirteen maker educators participated in the event. After Lianna briefly introduced the idea of Sound machines, everyone dived into his/her own creation. I like seeing how quickly people get engaged in this activity.

MEM Sound Linkages
It was great to see how they used (or at least tried to use) the materials, music instruments, pegboards, and Lego parts. For example, just by looking at how people used the pegboard, we were convinced that our small pegboards communicated well that it could be used in versatile ways. People used it sideways, facing up (or facing down to hang something), and there was also one group that connected two pegboards together to share a motion with one motor. We were glad to know that our custom-made pegboards support and encourage many ways of building Sound Machines.

MEM Sound Linkages MEM Sound Linkages
The Lego pen holder that Sebastian designed while we were developing Lego Art machines worked great to hold something skinny like a mallet, but in this activity we've noticed that most of the instruments had a thick handle so they wouldn’t fit. This makes us think about to design and 3D print larger pen holders.

MEM Sound Linkages 27539276086_12644c2068_o
On a related note, the pre-drilled holes that Nicole had made on the music instruments were helpful for people to attach the instrument to the mechanism. Having several holes on one instrument is better because it gives people options on how to attach the instrument to make it sound differently. Since these music instruments and noise makers are usually in weird shapes and do not go along with Lego system, figuring out a good way to attach them would be nice so people do not have to struggle there.

IMG_0874 IMG_0872 IMG_0871
Some people mentioned that having this Lego part was also really good because it suddenly expanded the possibility of machine construction. By having this piece, it changes how things move on the same mechanism, and your Sound Machine becomes 3 dimensional!

MEM Sound Linkages
My favorite Sound Machine from that night is this one. Usually people try to control only the mallet to hit different notes on the chime, and most of the time it doesn't work well. But here, this group successfully controlled the mallet AND the chime so the mallet can hit a different note each time while the chime moves back and forth. It was pretty amazing to see how constantly it plays the three different notes!

In the discussion, people commented that the materials were inviting not only boys but also girls. They said that it was inspiring to have non-Lego items such as musical instruments or other everyday objects around the table. We also talked about differences between cardboard linkages and Lego linkages. One advantage of using Lego is in the precision. Lego enables people to make a working linkage mechanism instantly, while with cardboard you need to be careful in measuring and cutting to make successful linkages. (Although some people mentioned that the cost of having Lego, especially the power functions such as motor and batteries, is something we can't ignore...)

Another difference that I thought is that Sound Machine gives immediate feedback on people's creation. If you see your music instrument didn't sound or your motor is spinning for nothing, you know immediately something is not working and try to fix it. This cycle of testing, getting a result, and fixing seems to be a lot shorter than that of cardboard linkages. These are the things that we would like to keep thinking about while further developing linkage activities.

One last reflection from that night was that we witnessed a marriage proposal in the learning studio for the first time ever! Sam, who works at the Exploratorium, proposed Ray who was participating in the tinkering meet-up! hooray!
Tinkering proposal
There was love and laughter, and the room was filled with charming sounds of Lego linkages.
It was a very memorable tinkering session.


Here are some resources for this activity:
- How to make the Lego peg board on Instructables
- How to make the Lego pen holder on Thingiverse
- The other photos and videos from this event were here on Flickr