Welcome Week Recap

It’s been a while. Time to dust off this digital notebook, grab the metaphorical pen, and get back into this blogging thing. The plan going forward is daily posts, but we’ll just have to see if I’m able to stick to that. Might have to employ some sneaky tactics like scheduling posts in advance! Advanced stuff, I know~

There probably won’t be a recap of my second year on the Interactive Design course, at least not in the foreseeable future. So let’s just jump straight to the third one! More specifically the joint project that happened on the welcome week, which was just last uh… week.

There have been some changes on the course since I last posted here. Chris and Wayne are still running the show, but Gerard has left the uni, Ross is working in the workshop, Nick is only teaching first years, and we have Dave from Product Design on the course now! And this welcome week was The Dave Show, not just because everything we did was his idea, but also because he’s responsible for the main “catch” of it all.

You see, Dave often makes trips to Beijing (I think he teaches there as well, or at least has relations to a school there), and for this week he invited over twenty Chinese students to accompany us in our joint project. We were sorted into teams, each team having a third year interactive design student as its leader, maybe one more third year, one or two first years, and four-five Chinese students. The second year ID students did not bother to show up. We have no idea where any of them were. I was the leader of team number seven, along with two other students from my course, Jake and Christopher, and Vicky, Catherine, Kelsey, Arthur, and Lam.ts (at least he told me and messaged me with that name, I may have misunderstood though) from China.

Our project was: take an oil barrel, and make an instrument out of it. This was inspired by the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, a community effort in Paraguay where people created instruments out of trash, and sent their kids on a world tour. Needless to say, our ideas and results were not as neat as that.

First up was just coming up with ideas. Language barriers proved to be an issue, since not only could the Chinese students not understand more complex English words or phrases, but we were also talking about musical instruments, a topic where even I have to constantly look up words, since I only know the Hungarian equivalents. But we managed to overcome that issue with translation apps, writing things down, or just simple drawing.

Our ideas ranged across the musical spectrum, including Chinese stringed instruments, a metallic xylophone, and some woodwind instruments that would never work with the materials we had. At one point Chris came to our table to check on our progress, and he suggested pushing things a lot further, leaving behind conventional instruments, entering the territory of “weird stuff”.

So we came up with the idea to hang metallic plates inside the barrel, insert a fan on one end, hook up the fan to a bike wheel, and let the wind to the work. We even had a name for it! “The Windraiser”, named after an animated movie called The Wind Rises, as suggested by some of the Chinese students.

Dave was a little bit confused by this, so he kindly reinterpreted it into something different that made a bit more sense. Have the barrel stand upright, hang different things inside using strings or fishing line, have holes on the side, and just simply have an electric fan.

This shifted the focus from the mechanics of connecting a bike to fan, to coming up with things to hang inside. We had a nice idea that we could make one hanging bit together, and then everyone could make one on their own, but this never really went anywhere. Instead, I brought some coins, seashells, and paperclips as materials, then we walked around High Street, looking around in charity shops.

Some of the hanging things we ended up were ready-made:

The other ones we made on the spot. One of these was some coins with holes drilled into them, all on a string:

Another one was all the seashells glued together in pairs, and then tied onto a string in a similar fashion:

And one was a thing made of paperclips and weird metal bits we got from a charity shop:

All good so far! But then the complications started. First of all, cleaning the barrels took way longer, and Dave couldn’t use the angle grinder either, so all seven teams had a single shared barrel to work with. Then the holes on top were too far apart so no matter the strength of the wind our hanging items just didn’t clash. Not that the wind was all that strong, since the holes on the side of the barrel were also too small, and the fan was really really weak. So all in all, nothing really worked.

Still, Dave liked our idea, and said that we could solve this at some other time, by hooking up contact mics to each individual hanging item instead of placing them around the barrel, so even the lightest wind movement would create sound, even if the objects themselves do no touch each other. But that’s left for later, as the welcome week had to progress beyond this project, and our Chinese friends were soon leaving.

So yeah. Anti-climactic end to the project. Just like this blog post!

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