LI4E’s Team Awesome Presents: The Spectrapiano Red Bull Creation Entry

Our LI4E “Team Awesome” proudly presented our answer to the 2013 Red Bull Challenge – “Let there be Light” with  The LI4E SpectraPiano, a new, more interactive take on the old Bubbler Jukebox , using components provided Red Bull Creation and augmented with some Ingenious Implementation, Imaginative Design, and Unstoppable Determination.  The result: an electric piano with programmed LED lights responding to struck keys,  illuminating a bubble wall in a spectrum of changing colors.

Our three week build required a couple of brainstorming sessions with our intergenerational team of Creatives, the fabrication of an acrylic ‘water-wall’ tank and bubbler, as well a frame to hold it all together. We then attached a Turbull Encabulator to an Arduino to drive a multi-colored LED Strip that provided engaging hue-ristics.   That required a little experimentation and self-education, on everything from soldering pins, for our younger members, to the necessary programming skills for our resident coders.  And some OTJ physics learning for our acrylic tank builders, on the nature of water pressure, which is pretty impressive force.

The Turbull Encabulator assembly would typically be driven by a computer that accepts midi signals from the keyboard and converts them to the signals needed to drive the lights.  But ‘LI4E Team Awesome’ handily replaced the bulky computer by porting the control and conversion software to a Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi was then simply tucked into little pocket behind the bubble wall, and interfaced the arduino directly to the keyboard.

You can look under the hood at our repository on GitHub that contains the Arduino code, NodeJS code (which runs on Pi), and some CAD concepts we debated before we decided on our final design.

We debuted our creation at the Land O’Lakes Public Library, our partners in creativity, an amazing library exploring the development of public makerspaces in its facilities, helping sponsor our Tampa Bay Mini Maker Faire and TEDxLive events, and home to one of the most energetic and active library teen groups we’ve ever seen!  It’s hard to imagine many other libraries, when asked if they’d mind an electric piano with a water filled wall on the premises, so enthusiastically agreeing.  

Over 200 teens were at their Friday Game Night at the library when we brought in the piano, and several sat down to try their very talented hands at the keys.  We had a ball and so did they!

And just because we’ve finished our Red Bull Creation entry doesn’t mean we’re done playing with it.  We’ve got all sorts of ideas for tweaking, refining, decorating and experimenting with the Spectrapiano.  And if you’re inspired to tinker on your own, have at the source code and have fun!

If you want to see some of the other 2013 Red Bull Creation entries here . Stay Creative!