Hearts Of STEM Outreach workshops #4 and #5

The second week of our Inclusive Creativity/HeartsOfSTEM outreach workshops on interactive sound toys concluded with two workshops: one on Thursday May 25th, involving Denise White’s SEN group of young adults and other interested participants (Journalism student Maddie Siegmund, amongst others) in Foyle Arts Building, UU; the second, on Friday May 26th, took place in the Craft Village, courtesy of Inner City Trust’s Blane O’Donnell, and open to the general public. Many thanks to our team of expert facilitators: Danny Todd, Lewis Smith, Ryan Rodgers, Shane Byrne and Conor Teahan. And Dr Brendan McCloskey. This project was supported by Ulster University and funded by Garfield Weston. Inexhaustible support was also provided by Dr Brian Bridges, Prof Frank Lyons. And Sinead Grant!

The Thursday session offered students a ‘buffet’ of interfaces, tools and approaches: Ableton Live/Push for sequenced beats, sampling and effects; networked iPads, music apps, hardware sequencers and synthesizers; DIY sensors and sound-toys with Arduino and Pure Data, and fruits and vegetables with Makey Makey.

The bridesmaid of the event was, sadly for me, the Arduino platform. In a ‘mix-n-match’ scenario such as this, participants want instant gratification, and less circuit-building and coding, although some of the attendees were happy to sit and quickly build a conductive panel sensor for the Makey Makey:


The Craft Village is Derry’s hidden gem, halfway down Shipquay Street, offering a huge variety of craft shops, cafe’s and restaurants run by artisan entrepreneurs. The canopied courtyard offered an idyllic setting for our final public workshop. Before we had even finished our set up, an SEN group from Carndonagh Community School, Donegal, wandered in and promised to return later that afternoon. In the interim, several small young families took great delight in playing the ‘bananio’, as it became known, as did a small group of engineering professors from Bangor, Co Down:

Again, the Makey Makey was the star of the show, as was the Launchpad app (running on an iPad), causing a spontaneous outburst of very energetic break-dancing! Images and videos from the Carndonagh group will be posted online following clearance from the school authorities.

All told, this was a fun, relaxed and highly interactive end to the series, on a baking hot day in the centre of Derry.

(Note to self: an external library exists for the Makey, allowing all triggers to be remapped (within the Arduino IDE), offering more sophisticated gesture control of, for example PD or Supercollider).

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