The John Peel Lecture with Brian Eno

The annual John Peel Lecture invites a notable figure from the music industry to shape a debate and create insight around music and music-related media. Taking its inspiration from one of the greatest radio broadcasters of all time, and a figure who perpetually challenged the status quo, the John Peel Lecture has been a part of the Radio Festival since 2011. [Listen in popup window]

This year’s John Peel Lecture will examine the ecology of culture. Brian Eno will seek to demonstrate how the whole complex of individuals and institutions engaged in culture – artists, broadcasters, gallerists, promoters, DJs, managers, lawyers, fans – are symbiotically connected parts of a single huge organism which we call Culture. He will outline some of his thinking on this very unpredictable ecology and explore the interconnective relationships between the elements and components that combine to create our culture, and show how cultural processes confer essential and important benefits on society.

Brian Eno joins a list of high profile speakers who have delivered the John Peel Lecture. These are The Who’s Pete Townshend in 2011, who explored the implications of digital music media in an age of free downloads and a disposable attitude to music; Billy Bragg in 2012 who’s speech explored how music and radio need mavericks to keep moving forward; and in October 2013, Charlotte Church delivered an insightful speech on the theme of women and their representation in the music industry. Last year 6 Music’s Iggy Pop gave a speech on the topic of Free Music in a Capitalist Society.



Scratch’n WeDo

LEGO WeDo systems offer elementary teachers and their students (7+) a great introduction to robotics; a Base Set (9580, $140) and the Resource Set (9585, $60) would make a great gift, where a LEGO Education WeDo Software and Activity Pack ($90) is also required for programming.

Scratch is a well tested method to introduce youngsters to programming. Using Scratch 2 to program your WeDo is an exciting opportunity to teach programming with a bit more sophistication than the LEGO licensed software, below our my design notes.

The LEGO WeDo has three peripherals to control, 1) a Power Functions M-motor, 2) a tilt sensor, and 3) a motion sensor, all of which is connected to a computer via the LEGO Education WeDo USB Hub.

LEGO-Dancing-BirdsA first project is to build the Dancing Birds robot.  In this project, students will work with dual drive gears connected by a rubber band, spinning two birdies.

Although the LEGO software works best for PK-3, relying on Scratch for 4th graders on is a great way to initiate coding concepts such as iteration, loops, functions, and variables.  Actuating the motors clockwise for a time, pausing, then counter-clockwise with specific sounds for each portion of the motion acts as an introduction.

Employing the web-based Scratch 2 system as a LEGO software counterpart  first requires some basic setup:

  • Create a scratch project at
  • Selecting More Blocks from the Scripts tab
  • Add an Extension
  • Then selecting the LEGO WeDo extension that is now default to Scratch.

Plug the connector of the LEGO WeDO USB Hub into your computer where you should see a red or yellow indicator light turn to green if your computer “sees” the hub, otherwise there will be a link to install a small interface application (for Mac, PC, and Linux).

Once you have the connection to the hub,  dragging a Green Flag block over and attaching the Turn Motor On for 1 secs block to it – select the green flag to operate the motor, change the time to 10 seconds, turn the motor off using another object, turn motor on, turn motor off, set motor power to 100, set motor direction to this way, when distance < 20, when tilt = 1,  all of which have drop down options or variable input, and toggles for distance and tilt.

Two introductory examples for sensory using Scratch are included as:

A more advanced building example by made possible by purchasing the WeDo Resource Set (9585)  which would allow you to build projects such as the Ferris Wheel :

You might explore your own options at:

A Scratch Wiki can be found as:

Exploring Sound through Technology and the Arts

The Exploring Sound through Technology and the Arts in Bismarck started with an education workshop at the Cathedral School, then alongside teacher Kay Power, David DeMuth worked with sixth grade students over a sequence of days that resulted in some amazing learning.

The workshop was and can be repeated for teachers, below an overview with useful links for implementing a similar program.

Suggested resources:

Reference: David DeMuth, Jr.

Sounds from the Cathedral

Building their own version of virtual keyboard, thirty-four sixth graders who under the tutelage of a very enthusiastic teacher, Mrs. Kay Power, acquired the necessary knowledge to extend that experience into a bonafide game design effort earlier today at the Cathedral School in Bismarck, ND.

The Makey Makey is a device that connects to a computer as simply as a mouse or a keyboard does via a USB port, and in this case were Google Chromebooks, laptop systems that require WIFI-only access to the World-Wide-Web.

Up arrow, down, left and right alongside shift and click are the default six key presses to musical creativity by these young Catholics.

Their version of the Makey Makey piano was somewhat sophisticated, using the Scratch 2 scripting system, each of the students having Scratch user accounts, and therefore a public license to build and host software creations.

Sprites as characters on a theatrical stage and in costume, are scripted for motion and song, as a metaphor for what is essentially an introduction to computer science and software engineering.

Class, class, please welcome Dr. David DeMuth announced Mrs. Power, who then followed that invitation with what seemed to be a familiar conversation on the atom, its nucleus of particles, and orbiting electrons, topics addressed recently in their classroom.

But what was not familiar were the neutrinos he spoke about emanating from the Sun with an overwhelming presence, and of the phenomena that was only (relatively) recently disclosed, and via mechanisms that have yet to be fully understood.

Physicists rely frequently on computers and customized software to support their arguments of discovery, this explanation setting a context for Dr. DeMuth’s innate ability to be teaching computer-based game design.

He explained then on how static charge passes from your charged body to that shocking door knob on those dry winter days using the John Travoltage simulation for illustration.

It’s those numerous charge carriers (blue colored spheroids – if you get the chance to try out the PHET app) when allowed will follow a path of least resistance along a wired course that demonstrated to these students electricity; together they wired a bulb and a battery to illuminate a bulb, and with two batteries, an even more illuminated bulb.

The Makey Makey’s fundamental context is conduction. holding hands, conducting students laughed as the Makey Makey’s bongos and piano were played through themselves.

Up arrow, down, left and right alongside shift and click triggering sounds on their web machines. Even more interesting was when Play-doh controllers were sculpted and used as the triggering medium.

With game design the central goal, and with previous effort using Scratch 2, Mrs. Powers instructed all students to disconnect their Makey Makey USB cables to focus instead on the making of a Pong Game, DeMuth prodding for any who might not know of such a game – it seemed unanimous, all knew, some admitting they had even toyed with making their own.

After thirty minutes of direction, Pong v1.0 were had by all, scripted bats and bouncing balls complete with sounds and scoring – most thrilling for a 6th grade class!

With their Scratch pianos they made previously, what remained was the challenge to arrange and embed their musical compositions into their own Pong game, and ideally in advance of a return performance to develop a Mario Brothers-like platform game.

The project was funded by the kind assistance of the North Dakota Council on the Arts as part of their Artist in Residence program and their insistence to demonstrate STEAM as inate to STEM, something Arts in Education Director Rebecca Engelman sustains with vigor.

The Makey Makey project extends from earlier work at Valley City State University which was also funded by the Council on the Arts, and if the impact on these young Catholics and participating teachers is indication, an activity that will continue to drive more interest in STEM.

See also subsequent May 11, 2015 article:

and television coverage:

STEAM: The A is also for Agriculture

In a rural community where John Deere Corp. produces tillage and seeding equipment, Valley City, ND,  surrounded by farms and ranches is an ideal location for the  78th annual North Dakota Winter Show.

Any of the 71,000+ that attended Winter Show had an opportunity to discover an interactive STEM+Agriculture exhibit that staff at the Great Plains STEM Education Center coordinate as part of the Center’s education and outreach mission.

In the three days of the event, nearly 1000 people sat in a Case IH tractor, and in a simulated farm field, drove, plowed, seeded, or harvested corn in an effort to demonstrate the complex and integrative aspects of farming.

For example in the seeding mode of the simulator, “farmers” are asked to select a seeding rate and then are scored on an ability to balance rate with speed, and similarly when harvesting corn, head height and speed are to be balanced.16763391201_12c1c051df_k

The intricacies of the software design are the sum of efforts by the Center’s Amanda Fickes, John Boucha, accompanied by programmers Jarrod Lactot and Lucas Sorenson, and this author.

Adjacent to the Ag Cab Lab was the arcade styled Ethanol Racer that while challenging a player’s driving skill, coaches on the role that ethanol fuels have on reducing smog, a by-product of burning conventional fuels in metropolitan areas.

As agricultural areas are often the favored locations to site wind farms, a novel experiment was a part of the inter Show STEAM exhibit: design a wind turbine blade generator system that when subjected to a standard window box fan (on high speed) would produce a maximum amount of power as measured by an attached volt meter.

Guiding their effort was Amanda alongside her three interns who prompted a selection on the number of blades, of geometries for blade shape, a protracted blade pitch, and on the recording of relevant data both in tabular form on paper and then entering that data through a web-based touch screen graphical interface. 16577166320_bfc52831bf_k

Once entered, data was displayed and interpreted for patterns between any of the four variables with generation voltage. Guiding the participants work throughout was the Engineering Design Process that is often cited as essential to a STEM Learning.

The three intens are VCSU undergraduates Michaela Halvorson,  Alexis Getzlaff, and Garret Hecker each who earned an internship sponsored by the State Historical Society of North Dakota through a Great Plains STEM Education Center partnership to develop teacher training modules for a renewable energy S.E.N.D. trunk the Center designed.

Adjacently, the [original] Pickled Fish project prompted participants to identify any of the native fish species suspended in ethanol  at the Winter Show with impressive attention, signaling to Center staff that a traveling trunk would be popular among K-12 teachers in North Dakota.  16763384091_2eb220c8fd_k

Funding to attend the Winter Show was made available by the North Dakota Corn Growers with additional support provided via Jeff Beckman and the Minnesota Farm Bureau, and a recent permanent exhibit installation in Bismarck’s Heritage Center fueling design work.

See also our Flickr site for this event: