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WAVES: An Integrated STEM and Music Program for Fifth Grade Students (RTP, Strand 2)

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Research to Practice: STRAND 2- Engineering Across the Curriculum: Integration with the Arts, Social Studies, Science, and the Common Core

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1713.1 - 26.1713.16



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Paper Authors


Jay B. Brockman University of Notre Dame

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Dr. Jay Brockman is the Associate Dean of Engineering for Experiential Learning and Community Engagement. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and previously worked for Intel Corporation. He is also a founder of Emu Solutions, Inc., a startup company that is commercializing research in the area of high-performance computing.

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Douglas C. Hall University of Notre Dame

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Sean Patrick Martin University of Notre Dame's DeBartolo Performing Arts Center


L. Arielle Phillips University of Notre Dame

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Lara Arielle Phillips is a Research Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Notre Dame. She studies the interplay between galaxies and the largest structures in the universe. She has transformed computational tools used in medical physics to peer into the different neighborhoods of the cosmic web, studying filaments, voids, and clusters. Dr. Phillips co-created a course on Physics and Theatre, Science Play, at Amherst College (with Professor Manu Mukasa) and the University of Notre Dame (with Professor Yael Prizant). It was inspired by the numerous plays that have been produced recently that delve into the scientific process, the evolution of scientific ideas, and the interplay of culture and science. As Chair of the Outreach Committee of the department of Physics, Professor Phillips leads efforts to involve the broader public in science. Through her work in the WAVES collaboration and in the yearly Art 2 Science camp she explores using STEAM to further this goal. She is currently spearheading the Physics program for the Westville Educational Initiative. Dr. Phillips received her Ph.D. in Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University.

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WAVES: An Integrated STEM and Music Program for Fifth Grade Students (RTP, Strand 2)Fifth grade academic standards for music in a Midwestern state call for an understandingof the “relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts,”specifically citing examples in mathematics. Neither the standards for mathematics norscience (the state does not have fifth grade engineering standards), however, requiremaking connections between these disciplines and the arts. The WAVES project(Wonder, Arts, Vibration, Engineering, Science), based at a research university in thisstate, seeks to promote a better appreciation and understand of both the STEM disciplinesand the Arts through their integration. Specifically, through an event centered upon amusical performance by an acclaimed percussion ensemble that is artist-in-residence atthe university, WAVES demonstrates how experimentation and analysis—typicallyassociated with the sciences—and creative design—typically associated with the arts—figure strongly in both domains.The WAVES program was offered as a half-day event during the spring of 2014 attendedby over 350 fifth graders from 3 local schools and comprised three main activities: (1)museum-style exhibits and demonstrations in the engineering building, (2) small groupsessions facilitated by undergraduates with discussion and hand-on activities, (3) aconcert where all 350 fifth graders accompanied the artists-in-residence on custominstruments designed and built by undergraduates for the performance of a classicalmusic work composed by the artists-in-residence specifically for this educational event.Two undergraduate classes, offered during the semester prior to the WAVES event, werecritical to its design and implementation. A one-credit, pass/fail course withapproximately 40 students from a wide variety of majors focused on the design andconstruction of the musical instruments. Students in this class were also required todevelop lesson plans for the small group sessions. Students in a senior-level ElectricalEngineering audio technology course developed, together with the faculty member, aseries of demonstrations for the museum-like portion of the event. A speaker sloweddown to oscillate at 1-10 Hz appeared to “breath inaudibly at 1 to 10 times per second”,becoming audible only when increased to frequencies ≥ 50 Hz that are “too fast to see”but for which students could directly feel the air pressure of the sound waves created.Another demonstration used an oscilloscope and spectrum analyzer to help studentsvisualize the musical concepts of loudness, pitch, and timbre. Students were engagedlistening to and looking at waveforms and spectra of the “same note” played in a varietyof synthesized instrument voices (piano, flute, etc.) while being invited to identify them.The final presentation and paper will provide complete details on the design andimplementation of the WAVES event as well as an assessment of its outcomes. A keycomponent of the assessment methodology was a series of over 50 interviews of parents,students, administrators, and other stakeholders, conducted by a team of undergraduatesusing an approach based on the NSF I-Corps program. Since its initial offering at theuniversity, the WAVES program has also been performed with a mixed-age audience at ascience museum in another state and continues to receive bookings.

Brockman, J. B., & Hall, D. C., & Martin, S. P., & Phillips, L. A. (2015, June), WAVES: An Integrated STEM and Music Program for Fifth Grade Students (RTP, Strand 2) Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.25049

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