Our project was a part of the 2019 Cornell Summer Research Institute (CSRI), where Cornell College students and faculty work in close collaboration on a research project for eight weeks during the summer. Students have a chance to develop their skills that benefit their later career or graduate school experiences. The program includes one faculty member and one or two students per each research topic. The goal is to familiarize the undergraduate students with how a research project is done from the literature review to built. Our project was chosen based on the students' background and passion and with having their degree, general engineering, in mind. Students at Cornell College are heavily involved in artistic and athletic activities. The students involved in this project had recently taken the Engineering Circuits course and have a musical knowledge background. The goal of the research was to construct a gesture-controlled piano that could recognize the distance from an object to the sensor and translate it into musical notes. A secondary goal was to implement touchless commands adding additional functionality and features to an open-source project designed by Andy Grove. The students started by investigating the literature reviews on human-computer interaction and different types of motion/distance sensors. The next step was to learn how to work with Raspberry Pi. The students had some background in programming with Python from their Computer Science courses that came very handy during the project. The researchers were given the flexibility to lead the project in the direction they wished, and the supervisor provided a guiding hand, emulating a graduate-level research work. This arrangement helped to develop their self-esteem and problem-solving skills. The project took two months from start to finish. The students added additional features to the initial design, including the ability to switch between notes and chords, additional instrument voicings, an LCD screen, a shutdown command, and a custom-made enclosure. The researchers wish to see variations of this project implemented in hospitals, nursing homes, and schools so that no matter the physical capability or stage of life the user can still create music, allowing people who have weak muscle issues or joint-related disabilities to enjoy playing the piano. The researchers also hope this project will reflect the power of engineering in a liberal arts education through the combination of multiple disciplines, experiences, skills, and interests.
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