Are we doing the best we can...
...in preparing a sustainable future of interested, informed young learners for the future leaps and bounds of music and technology in the 21st Century?
The midge is a tiny DIY synthesiser and multidisciplinary learning tool, created by Ciaran Frame and Fergus Dixon to teach students about the fundamentals of music, technology and electronics, and how they all fit together. It is a semi-modular circuit board designed and manufactured for use in STEAM classrooms. I’m looking to unlock new and exciting avenues for music performance and composition, and I can’t wait to see what students unlock as well.
At its core, the midge is simply a buzzer (a small speaker) and a battery. From this simple concept comes a near limitless world of musical investigations and educational possibilities. The midge works the same way as the fundamental core of most synthesizers, starting with an oscillator. Through programming and circuit construction, users can learn about creating sound waves (and thus melodies and textures) through both digital and analogue methods. The board itself is split into two separate modules, each outputting their signal to to the buzzer in the middle. By itself, the midge makes no sound at all. Users must first ‘activate’ one of the modules.
The first module is a modular investigation into timer chips using the classic 555-timer. This simple but powerful integrated circuit is used in countless electronic applications, and drives a simple square wave that can be altered by the user through swappable resistors and capacitors. This module provides foundational knowledge of circuits, components and oscillators, as well as providing an interactive oscillator that can be performed in much the same way as a theremin.
The second module is an exploration into the world of programming and all things digital with the ATiny85 - a little microprocessor similar in appearance, but vastly different in function. The ATTiny family of chips are programmable microcontrollers, and are very much like small computers with the capability to enact very specific instructions. This module allows users to use creativity in the context of code, programming their own ATTiny chips (through a USB programmer), with the ability to create melodies, flashing lights and interaction through various components.
The midge is currently being used in a trial workshop basis in classrooms around Sydney, and has being manufactured in collaboration with electronics engineer Fergus Dixon.