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STEM Outreach spreads science through music

Published: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 9:56 p.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 11:29 p.m. CST
(Monica Maschak – )
Connor Lowe, 10, of DeKalb, plays on the PVC pipe organ created by STEM Outreach associate Jeremy Benson (left) during the Bright Futures festival of light and sound Tuesday at Hopkins Park.
(Monica Maschak –
Scarlett Bryant, 9, of Cortland, plays on the drum visualizer during the Bright Futures festival of light and sound Tuesday at Hopkins Park. With every beat on the drums, an image would appear on the screen (far right).

DeKALB – Connor Lowe found himself asking “how” about many musical instruments Tuesday night at Hopkins Park.

STEM Outreach, which works to increase science, technology, engineering and mathematics literacy in the community, held a Science of Music event Tuesday in the Hopkins Park shelter house as part of its summer series. The public was welcome to listen to musicians as well as try their hand at some scientific and unique instruments, including electronic music.

Lowe, 10, of DeKalb, spent time playing on a PVC pipe organ, and he was surprised by the different sounds and notes it could make.

“I think he needed a little stimulation and this seemed like fun,” said his grandmother, Louise Lowe, of DeKalb. “Now I can’t get him to stay away from [the organ.]”

STEM Outreach associate Jeremy Benson demonstrated a musical Tesla coil, which used high voltages to generate sounds that could be used to make music. He said he loves to see children get excited about science at STEM events.

“It’s great when they are actually getting engaged,” Benson said. “It’s important to get them involved and show them how math and science are relevant to their lives. We can show them how math and science are in music.”

Alexis Lamb, Northern Illinois University student, performed with Arcomusical, a group which plays music on berimbaus, or musical bows. 

“I like the simplicity of the instrument,” Lamb said. “Because it is simplistic, it is rewarding to see what you can do with it and make of it.”

Greg Beyer, associate professor for the NIU School of Music and a member of Arcomusical, told the audience that the sounds the berimbau makes are an “expression of human happiness.”

After the group performed a song, he asked the children the first word that came to their minds after hearing the music. The group collectively answered.


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