The TIMARA Department recently visited a group of 6th grade students during their annual Tinkering Week at the Laurel School, a private all-girls school outside of Cleveland, OH. Laurel’s Tinkering Week has become something of an annual tradition for TIMARA, as students and faculty have visited Laurel for the past 6 years to lead sound-related workshops, take students on soundwalks, and to teach students the basics of field recording. This year, TIMARA staff and faculty Abby Aresty and Aurie Hsu designed a new, hands-on, interdisciplinary workshop for Laurel, blending physics, technology, and sound into a fun-filled 90-minute adventure in making art with sound. TIMARA students Margaret McCarthy, Helen He, and Julia Mills joined Aurie and Abby in co-leading the workshop. 

In the workshop, students and mentors used induction coils and amps to go on a scavenger hunt for invisible electromagnetic fields. We used magnets, electromagnets, and index card diaphragms to make their own microphones and speakers. Then, we built homemade contact microphones from piezo discs and used surface transducers to turn everyday objects into speakers. We wrapped up the day with a rousing improvisation to a frog-themed cartoon, using all of our homemade technologies as well as one of a kind instruments created by TIMARA friend Kyle Hartzell.

The Laurel students were enthusiastic and bonded immediately with their Oberlin mentors, asking wonderful questions such as “How do I study this in college?” and “Can you come back for seventh grade?” Reflecting on the experience, Aresty said, “It was so rewarding to see our students mentor these girls – they did an incredible job, and the Laurel students clearly got so much out of working with them. Who knows, maybe there were a few future TIMARA majors in the room?” Plans are already in the works for next year’s tinkering week, scheduled for Fall 2018. – JA