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Music Technology as a Vehicle to STEM/STEAM for High School Students

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Secondary (6-12) Outreach

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.921.1 - 23.921.10



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Paper Authors


Jeff Gregorio Drexel University

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Jeff Gregorio is currently pursuing a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Drexel University. He received his BSEE from Temple University in 2011, and MSEE from Drexel in 2013. Jeff currently studies with Dr. Youngmoo Kim in Drexel's Music Entertainment Technology lab, pursuing research in novel musical interfaces and machine learning applications in music information retrieval. In 2012, he received the NSF-funded GK-12 Fellowship, for which he designs activities for Philadelphia high school students illustrating the connection between the arts and the sciences, to catalyze interest in STEM/STEAM.

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Brandon G Morton Music Technology as a Vehicle to STEM for High School Students

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Brandon Morton is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at Drexel University. He received his B.S. in Computer Engineering from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2009 and his M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Drexel University in 2011. He was an NSF GK-12 fellow from 2011 to 2013. Currently he is researching methods for detecting influence between musical artists.

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Youngmoo Kim Drexel University

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Youngmoo Kim is Director of the Expressive & Creative Interaction Technologies (ExCITe) Center and Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Drexel University. He received his Ph.D. from the MIT Media Lab and holds Master's degrees in Electrical Engineering and Music (Vocal Performance Practice) from Stanford and degrees in Engineering and Music from Swarthmore. Dr. Kim pursues multi-disciplinary research at the convergence of technology and creative expression and the advancement of arts-integrated learning in science and engineering and is a 2013 Apple Distinguished Educator.

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Jessica S Ward Drexel University (Eng.)

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Music Technology as a Vehicle to STEM for High School StudentsThe Summer Music Technology Program (SMT) offers a truly unique educational experience forrising high school freshmen and sophomores. The week-long program, initiated in 2006 as partof an NSF CAREER award, aims to introduce its participants to the concepts underlying modernmusic technology through inquiry-based projects and activities, drawing upon common musiclistening and playing experiences. The vast majority of young people today encounter musictechnology in their daily lives, yet the misconception persists that the arts and engineering aredisparate paths requiring entirely separate skill sets. For this reason, the program places heavyemphasis on the mutually reinforcing relationship between engineering and music, with newtechnology opening up new creative possibilities and newly discovered limitations demandingyet more technical solutions. By presenting the basics of these technologies accessibly in thiscontext, we hope to catalyze curiosity and motivate further investigation which can potentiallysteer students onto a career path in STEM.The NSF GK-12 Fellowship is another program that encourages pre-college students to pursue acareer in STEM, but in the context of the fourteen National Academy of Engineering (NAE)grand challenges, a set of foreseeable problems to be overcome in the 21st century. The NSF-funded program pairs graduate students in STEM with K-12 teachers to develop application-driven, project-based lessons that reinforce concepts and motivate further study of aspects of thescience and math curriculum throughout the school year. These projects attempt to connect theabstract and conceptual with application, in the process de-mystifying some of the technologiesstudents take for granted by illustrating how the concepts they learn in science and math can beapplied to the betterment of humanity.This paper is an investigation into the efficacy of a subset of the SMT modules in a modifiedform outside of the SMT environment, namely deployment as GK-12 projects. The two programsclearly share the common goals of early introduction to STEM and engaging the underserved andunderrepresented in STEM, as well as common methods in their emphasis of project andapplication-based pedagogy and their reliance upon the contributions of graduate students. Themost notable difference between the programs is the prior experience of the participants. SMTparticipants are generally self-selected, so the program tends to attract interest from themusically-inclined, whereas GK-12 participants represent a more general cross-section of pre-college students. Slight modification of the SMT modules is necessary to adapt to the audience,access to technology, instructor to student ratio, and session length.Participants in the SMT program complete surveys after each activity, indicating their level ofinterest, difficulty of the activity, and how much the students feel they’ve learned from theactivity. Deploying these modules and surveys as GK-12 projects will allow us to directlycompare student interest in STEM in a musical context between populations with different levelsof musical inclination. Using this data, we can determine whether this method of presentingSTEM effectively appeals to today’s youth’s near-universal affinity for music.

Gregorio, J., & Morton, B. G., & Kim, Y., & Ward, J. S. (2013, June), Music Technology as a Vehicle to STEM/STEAM for High School Students Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22306

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