Major Key: Piano Stairs

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Major Key: Piano Stairs

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Every high school student knows that the worst part about getting to the cafeteria is being shoved against the railing in a mass of students, all of whom are congregating on the stairs to be first in line for cookies. The dreaded climb back up the stairs is worse, not only marking the end of your lunch period, but draining the last bits of energy you have from your grueling day. Lucky for you, today, Monday, March 21st, during fifth period, the stairs are going to be far from dreadful as you let your creativity fly.

So, what exactly is happening to the staircase? Each step is going to be a different piano note. Similar to the classic F.A.O Schwartz scene from BIG, students will be able to recreate their favorite songs and melodies while going up and down the stairs.

Getting the project together was not easy. This project was executed by a group of juniors for an art and technology independent study. Every Wednesday, seventh period, these students meet to discuss ways to combine art and technology in fun, innovative ways. It required months of preparation and permission from SHS administration. The first step was to sketch designs for the piano stairs. The students experimented with a MaKey-MaKey, a product that was developed by two students at the MIT Media lab, to connect to the computer and create the piano sounds. Then the students also explored an Arduino option instead of the MaKey-MaKey, but decided that proceeding with the MaKey-MaKey would be more efficient. The group had to keep price, size, and safety in mind as they designed. After a successful mini-model was created, the group met with Principal Kenneth Bonamo, who gave his approval. The next step was to build a life-size prototype of their design. By combining foil, wire, hot glue, sponges, cardboard, carpet tape, and grip tape, the group was able to build pressure plates that worked when placed on the staircase. Head of Building and Grounds John Trenholme gave the group the go-ahead. After weeks of gluing, cutting, coding, wiring, taping, and stepping, the group was ready.

The piano steps, while fun and entertaining for everyone, bring more than just a day of musical creativity. Next year, there will be two new STEAM introductory courses offered, and the independent study group wanted to design a project that would bring attention to these courses. The group hopes the piano stairs will illustrate that technology is not intimidating and encourage students to pursue STEAM opportunities at SHS.

by Chelsea Norman

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