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Making noise with Arduino- Workshop at IDEO NYC

Massimo BanziOctober 16th, 2013

(originally posted on Makezine)

Dario Buzzini and I have been friends since we met at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea several years ago. Ever since, we have worked together on interaction design projects for different clients. While visiting NYC for World Maker Faire last month, we organized a free open workshop for 25 participants at the IDEO NYC office (where Dario works)  focused on creating sounds and music.

Make Some Noise” was a short, one-day workshop about Arduino where we explored the topic of sound and it was aimed at complete beginners with no experience. To simplify the structure of the workshop we started with hands-on experiments composed by a quick set of exercises to enable the participants to understand the basics and, later on, to start exploring pitch, frequency, tone, and multiple effects—with quite curious results (see videos below)!



To make things even easier, we focused only on one type of output  showing how you can relate that output with several types of input, like different sensors. We started, as usual, blinking a LED and then learned how a speaker clicks the same way an LED blinks: if you do it fast enough you can make a sound, if you do it at a specific speed you can make a note, and if you look up at all the frequencies associated with all the notes you can make scales.

After some testing, students were able to create noises, sounds, control them through slide sensors, buttons, potentiometers. At the end, as a fun exercise we used a piece of open source software that one of the Arduino users put on the Arduino Playground, which turns the Arduino into an eight-oscillator synthesizer that can use any piece of metal as a sensor. We then connected eight soda cans with an Arduino and a speaker. It played them as if it was a church organ!

Design and technology have, once again, come together to redefine, shape, and explore new experiences through simple, approachable tools.