Our framing context is sound-art: defined broadly as art that
uses sound as its medium. While experimental music certainly
fits in this category, sound-art has been defined more recently
in a context that sets it apart from music performance and positions it as a separate fine-art genre [ 34, 36]. Given that this is
a relatively new art category, we also explore experimental electronic music as a precursor to sound-art [ 17, 29]. The electronic
aspects of both areas contribute to our exploration of circuit
and system aspects of computer engineering technology.
dents’ technological fluency but through digital media projects
rather than engineering projects. It is also a way to expand students’ ideas about technology in the arts and how arts and technology interact in our modern world.
One higher-level goal of the project is to expand significantly the dialog on campus related to the intersection of arts and
technology, and how creative design thinking and engineering
problem solving are complementary skills that all students need.
We hope it will also serve as a catalyst for additional cross-disciplinary collaborations both by us and by other faculty members across campus. The 15-week project-based undergraduate
course is called Making Noise: Sound Art and Digital Media [ 10].
There is a rich body of literature on using authentic framing
contexts to encourage learning in CS and technology areas. For
example, a variety of courses use media computation to introduce CS principles and techniques (e.g., [ 25, 40]). These media
computation courses typically use a wide variety of media including images, video, and sound as frameworks in which to explore
computation. Other proposed classes use more specific media
contexts such as art [ 11, 12, 43] and literature [ 7, 8], to name just
two. There have also been proposals to use music and sound generation such as [ 6, 27, 32, 33, 37], and using computational techniques to manipulate music as data or in performance (e.g., [ 22,
26, 31, 38]). Our course inherits from these approaches a focus
on audio media as a compelling context. Refining this context,
we consider sound-art and experimental and electronic music as
distinguishable sub-domains of audio. This allows us to delve into
electronics-related computer engineering topics such as circuits
and electronics in addition to pure CS coding material.
There is also a rich literature on CS courses for general education audiences including computational thinking courses, e.g., [ 20,
35], CS Principles courses, e.g., [ 2, 3], and computing as a general education topic, e.g., [ 19, 21, 28, 30]. Our course is targeted at
technological fluency for a broad class of undergraduate students.
It is specifically not designed as a lead-in course for potential CS
majors. Rather it is designed as a technological component of a
general education curriculum. It is also not designed to promote
diversity of student demographics from a CS program perspective.
The diversity we seek is students from diverse majors with interests that may be far afield from those of a prospective CS student.
Our course has been delivered twice at the University of Utah:
once in Spring 2015 ( 19 students) and again in Spring 2016
( 24 students). Students enrolled in the course have had widely varying backgrounds in terms of majors (e.g., business, fine
arts, communication, chemistry, sociology, etc.). It is a project/
lab-based course with a set of project assignments (Figures 1 -
6) leading up to a student-defined final project (Figures 7 - 9).
Curricular material and computer science and engineering topics are detailed in Table 1.
Figure 1: An inductive pickup used to make electromagnetic (EM)
recordings. This is a telephone tap designed to pick up the EM field of
the speaker coil on a wired telephone.
Figure 2: These field recordings using the inductive pickup were
captured by a student and uploaded to SoundCloud.
Figure 3: Simple code for Arduino using the tone library to generate
sound, a CdS light sensor as input, and producing a simple “light