Menlo News January 20, 2023

Middle School Science and Engineering Students Build Tiny Concert Venues

Eighth graders demonstrate their creativity through design and engineering

To bring to life their study of the science of sound and light, students from eighth grade Science and Computer Science and Design Engineering (CSDE) classes designed concert venues for an artist of their choice. While building these small-scale venues, students experimented with software and hardware tools and modeled how sound may be reflected, absorbed, and diffused throughout their concert halls. They used the Microsoft MakeCode environment to program a light show using Circuit Playground Express devices. The lights were timed to match the beat and changed with the mood of their chosen music. Over the course of the project, students helped each other improve their designs with multiple opportunities to share peer-to-peer feedback.

After working in the classroom, the students displayed their completed concert venues in a gallery walk inside the Garage. With the room lights off, the miniature stages came to life, and students asked each other questions about their engineering choices while offering feedback.

Throughout this Science and CSDE collaboration, the students got to exercise their creativity, improve their design and engineering skills, and demonstrate their understanding of sound and light.

“I went with a simple design,” shared Charlie ’27. “For absorption, I put cloth on the back wall so the sound doesn’t echo back into the crowd. I made a pattern on the side walls to represent the diffusion of sound and how it disperses so that everyone can hear it. There is a reflection of sound too, so the singer on the stage can hear. I used a song called ‘Sandstorm’ because it’s kind of crazy, and I wanted the lights to be represented well too.”

“My idea was to build a stadium,” said Fernanda ’27. “I’m a really big fan of Harry Styles and One Direction. I picked the song ‘Story of My Life.’ There are five members, so I built the stage in the center so that everyone in the audience could see. I really like building stuff. It was so fun to make, especially because we got to set the lights to a song of our choice.”

“The students have been studying the behavior of both mechanical and electromagnetic waves,” said Eighth Grade Science teacher Allison Houghton. “The hope with this project was to show the intersection of science, computer science and design, and artistic expression, as well as showing students connections to their work beyond the classroom. It was a wonderful experience to collaborate with Mary Kiang’s computer science students so they can develop their design skills alongside their scientific understanding.”