MIT Music Hack day – Summary from Barbara Duckworth and Jen Lamere

This past November,  my daughter Barbara and her friend Jen Lamere participated in Music hack  day at MIT.

 I am posting this summary here for them so that they have an online place to link to (and because I am proud of them!). It’s so cool that there are fun opportunities like this for kids these days! Here is a video of them demonstrating their project:

Their summary: Barbara and Jen attended MIT’s Music Hack Day . We, along with about 250 others, worked all weekend to develop a music hack. In the twenty-four hours Barbie and I collectively slept a mere 6 hours. After endless cups of coffee and soda, we finally emerged with our hack, “High Five Hero.”

Our hack was a remixing tool driven by MaKey MaKey. MaKey Makey, created by Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum, is a device that plugs into computers, allowing virtually anything to be used in place of a keyboard. For our hack, we took four beats from various songs and made it so that each completed circuit yielded a different beat – the song could be remixed by completing the circuit in different orders. While neither Barbie nor I knew JavaScript or HTML at the beginning of the weekend, we were well-versed in it by the end. A few hours in, we had the basic code written, so we decided to add more to the hack. We added a game mode, in which the two users must complete the circuit in specific patterns to play the song. We also added an “Expert’s Only” mode, in which combo moves must be done in order to play a beat.

While writing the code itself wasn’t exactly easy, we left the hack day around 8:00 pm on Saturday feeling very confident – all we had left to do was add the hardware component. Our idea was to have the MaKey Makey hooked up so that when we high fived, a circuit would be completed. However, we couldn’t get the MaKey MaKey set up in such a manner that the beats would all play at the same time. After gloves, tape, wire, more tape, aluminum and even more tape, we finally got the MaKey MaKey set up. This time, we were the problem – we could not get our timing to align in a way that would make the music sound good. We decided to abandon our original idea, and try to hook the MaKey MaKey up to something else besides our hands. After hours of brainstorming, we decided to go back to our original idea, but place the points for the MaKey MaKey in different places – one on each hand, and one on each knee. This seemed to work better, and the sound produced began to sound like music.

Barbie and I were extremely proud of our first music hack- High Five Hero. Despite being extremely nervous for our demo, showing off our hack seemed to go over well! We loved being able to talk to the other hackers, and seeing what they did. We are excited to attend our next Hack Day together!


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