A small group of Bluegum students and friends joined instrument inventor and composer Dylan Martorell at Hotel Hotel’s Fix and Make series of workshops at the end of April. The ‘tinkering shed’ where it was held happens to be a large open-plan room where provocative piles of reclaimed resources were stacked on the floor. The kids were itching to get into it as soon as they saw the metal bowls, bicycle wheels, bits of old camp beds and a pair of bionic stilts…
Dylan showed them two robots (made from upturned rice bowls) that had been set up to turn and ‘dong’ with extended arms in various directions and prompted the kids to collect from the stacks of objects the things they thought would make good sounds. There was a rush for the junk and soon there was an interesting cacophony of bangs, clonks and tings. One participant thought to balance a bowl on a cup allowing it to ring out and soon this idea was taken to the extreme with a delicate tower of a blown up balloon topped by a metallic xylophone note which collapsed as soon as it was struck, but sounded great.
Next, participants were given drumsticks that were powered by linear actuators from a car’s central locking system. These robotic drumsticks could be attached to objects. When triggered they could be arranged to strike an object and make a sound. The kids were provoked to hunt out good bases and more objects to strike and create as many instruments as they had time for. So, working groups they built towers from folding beds and metallic chairs on to which they attached the drumstick-arms.
Other amazing sounds were made by experimenting with grounding everyday things such as balls of aluminium foil and sweet potatoes to make a sound from Dylan’s computer.
Dylan triggered the drumsticks to strike the arranged objects at differing intervals from a central program on his computer and once the kids were satisfied their work was done (a-hem, we ran just a little overtime) made the robotic orchestra assembled from ‘junk’ play.