In this section, we discuss the successes and challenges of this
course, and share insights that we hope can benefit educators
embarking on similar teaching endeavors. We believe that
the success of this course was due in large part to the chosen
framing context. First, the interdisciplinary nature of sound-art- combining visual art, music, and electronics (three cultural
cornerstones) - establishes a ground layer of familiarity, confidence, and engagement. In addition, like visual art and music,
Table 1: Curricular Content of Making Noise: Sound Art and Digital Media
Project Activities CS and Engineering Technical Connections
Readings Readings and in-class listening from pioneers in electronic and experimental music and sound art. Context for projects and labs. In-class discussions promote ngagement with material and classmates.
Listening Ear training and sound awareness assignments. Contextualized listening, in-class discussions.
EM Field Recordings
(Figs 1, 2)
Recording of EM signals using an inductive pickup tuned
to the audio frequency range (phone tap). A wide variety
of electronic equipment emits interesting EM noise (e.g.,
motors, computers) [ 14].
Electromagnetic signals and spectrum, information as data,
data manipulation using audio editors such as Audacity [ 5].
Arduino Music [ 1]
(Figs 1, 4)
Programs on Arduino that make music/noise both directly
from program code and using external sensor input such as
light sensors [ 9].
Basic imperative programming: data types, variables,
conditionals, loops, arrays, etc. Physical computing with
sensor inputs and output actuators (speakers).
Students acquire a noise-making toy from a thrift store, use
circuit-bending [ 14, 23] to modify its sound, and re-package
project into a new context.
Basic electronic circuits: wires, resistors, capacitors,
RC circuits, potentiometers, voltage division. Reverse
engineering and tinkering for knowledge acquisition.
Students build oscillator circuits using Schmidt triggers and
RC circuits [ 14]. “Instruments” are packaged into playable
Basic logic gates (inverters, NAND, and NOR), schematics,
circuit wiring and construction, frequency and amplitude,
modulation of signals.
(Figs 7, 8, 9)
Students conceive, design, and build sound-art projects
using techniques and concepts from class. Projects are
judged on both technical and aesthetic aspects.
Synthesis of technological knowledge from class. Projects
typically involve a combination of computer control and
sensing using Arduino along with oscillator circuits and
Figure 6: Oscillator circuit / noise instrument designed by a student and
packaged into a cigar box. Oscillators are controlled by a knob and slider
(potentiometers), light sensor, and “body contact” through the soldered
coins. Oscillator sound is amplified through the amplifier/recorder.
Table 3: Results from pre- and post-surveys relating to self-assessment
of confidence in technical skills. Students scored themselves on a scale
of 1-10 ( 10 being high) for confidence in these technical areas.
Topic Pre- Post- Diff increase
Electronics 5. 77 7. 31 1. 54 26.67%
Computers 7. 31 7. 77 0.46 6.32%
Circuits 4. 15 6. 31 2. 15 51.85%
Writing Code 5.00 5. 62 0.62 12.31%
Modifying Code 3. 62 5. 31 1. 69 46.81%
Table 2: Partial list of specific equipment used by students in the course.
Equipment can be funded using student lab fees.
Recorder/Amplifier 5w, mp3 recording, portable guitar amplifier - $19.65 from Monoprice.com
Inductive pickup Phone tap - $2 from surplus sources
Arduino Ubiquitous open-source microcontroller $5 to $30 dep. on model and source
Small speakers $0.75 - $5 each from surplus sources
Toys Acquired by students from thrift stores. Typically around $1 - $2 each.
Schmidt trigger chips e.g., CD40106(inv) and 4093(NAND) Around $0.40/ea at surplus sources
Breadboards Around $4 each online
Potentiometers Both knob and slide - 500k - 5M Around $1/ each from surplus sources
Cigar boxes Great, inexpensive enclosures for projects. Sources on-line - $1-$3/ea
(wire, resistors, caps)
Usually already available in on-campus
labs, or easily obtained online (e.g., Mouser,
On-line surplus sources include: AllElectronics.com, BGMicro.com,
Figure 7: Final project of Madison (fine arts major) from 2016. She
constructed a round padded sculpture that made electronic and
physical sounds from Arduino-controlled servos, sensors, and contact
microphones contained inside the sculpture.