Engineering design of musical instruments as a context for math, physics and technical writing in a freshman learning community course

Robert Culbertson, Michael Oehrtman, Janice Meyer Thompson, Josh Gardner, Christopher Mehrens, Dale Baker, Stephen Krause

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In order to enhance technological literacy and to integrate math, science, and technical writing into a contemporary context, a new math-science-English block course, Frets, Flutes, and Physics, for freshman at Arizona State University has been developed. The inquiry-based course is in a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) Learning Community 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 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. The course was concluded by a final "concert" where pairs of students played duets on instruments that they had designed and constructed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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