There is mounting evidence to suggest that integrating arts into traditional math and science curricula is an effective way to increase students interest in future STEM careers. The Music Entertainment Technology Lab (MET-Lab) at Drexel University has been a proponent of this philosophy and has strived to integrate arts and design into its Summer Music Technology program (SMT). This program invites rising sophomores and juniors to campus for a week to discover the underlying science and math principles for various musical concepts through hands-on activities. For example, students explore electro-magnetism by building their own speakers out of common household materials. Students are also asked to chose one of four individual projects, each further exploring some aspect of the hands-on activities. Through music, a high-interest domain which students interact with regularly, the MET-Lab is able to engage them in exploring complex STEM concepts.
In its 10th year, SMT has been updated in an effort to improve its efficacy. Based on data collected over the previous nine years, we have made a few modifications to the program. Some of these changes further integrate art and design into the week-long curricula and others have been implemented to make use of cutting-edge technology. These changes include an increased focus on music performances, an individual project that incorporates Swift Playgrounds for the iPad, and a synthesizer designing activity using LittleBits.
In addition, this year’s SMT program included an update to Audioworks, the app designed at Drexel specifically for this program. The app has been upgraded to include a fully-functional musical synthesizer, allowing precise musical note frequencies to be generated using an on-screen keyboard or external MIDI device. MIDI aftertouch and control messages sent to AudioWorks can also be mapped to parameters in effects mode, allowing students to develop novel interfaces of their own design to control synthesizer parameters in a creative way.
Furthermore, throughout the week, students documented learning outcomes via presentations of their projects, which were evaluated by a panel of Drexel students and faculty. These rubrics and student surveys indicate that our curriculum has had a measurable impact on students, namely in demonstrating students’ understanding of core STEM concepts and heightened interest in in pursuing STEM careers. By broadening the range of students interested in STEM and the arts, we hope to continue producing a generation of well-rounded and creative students that will be prepared to work in an increasing number of multidisciplinary fields.
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