Designing, building and analyzing musical instruments as a gateway to mathematics, science and engineering for pre-service education students

Robert Culbertson, Dale Baker, Janice Meyer Thompson, Christopher Mehrens, Stephen Krause

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In order to enhance technological literacy and to integrate math, science, and technical writing into a contemporary context, a new math-science block course, Frets, Flutes, and Physics, for freshman at Arizona State University has been developed. The inquiry-based course is in an Academic Success Cluster and consists of an 11-credit hour course to satisfy basic math, laboratory science and English requirements. The course has been developed and has been taught by an interdisciplinary team consisting of a physicist, mathematician, engineer, educator, musician, and science teacher. The context for the math, science, and technical writing was the design and building of musical instruments. Students used the engineering process to design, construct, and demonstrate instruments. Additionally, a music school faculty and music librarian arranged weekly integrated sessions demonstrating the history, culture, physical features, and musical character of a wide variety of instruments played by local professionals and graduate students. The course was assessed with respect to changes in technological literacy, problem solving ability, and creative thinking and as a result of the project. The goal was to integrate the physics, mathematics, and technical writing to understand and quantitatively and qualitatively describe the sound of music as well as design and build musical instruments using the engineering design process. Initial attitude results indicated that the students have low interest in physics and math and high interest in music and took the course because of musical interests and to fulfill university core class requirements. Details of demonstrations, instruments constructed, barriers and affordances to learning, and assessment results will be shown at the conference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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