Ed Walters issued the first STEAM challenge of the school year at September 14th’s morning meeting with a contest to have the Alta Vista teachers compete against each other in a Theremin Playing Contest. The teachers were set to compete against each other by playing either Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or Mary Had a Little Lamb in a greatly anticipated concert showdown.
So how does STEAM –the acronym for science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics — relate to a Theremin, an electronic musical instrument whose tone is generated by high-frequency oscillators? While seemingly wacky — think B-movie flying saucer sound effect — “The experiment of the Theremin is an interaction between the human and technology: people are sticking their hands right into technology and having technology talk back to us,” says Walters.
On September 21st, Ed Walters continued the Theremin lesson by demonstrating how sound waves travel by conducting an experiment with wires and a couple of buckets. The takeaway from that morning meeting was that sound travels at 760 mph, regardless of high or low pitch, softer or louder, higher or lower sounds.
While the sound wave demonstration was gripping and educational, the student body anxiously awaited the teacher’s Theremin concert which happened on Friday, October 16th when the music teacher Julie Bruins played a version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow and admitted that the Theremin was the hardest instrument she had ever learned to play.
Ms. Bruin also revealed that the Theremin’s origin came “from the days of Russian spies who were trying to make a land-based sonar device to detect when people were sneaking about, but, instead, Leon Theremin created the world’s first electronic instrument.”