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Airdate: Oct 08, 2010
Scientist: Bart Hopkin

Sounds - Steel Vibration

Sounds - Steel Vibration
How can you keep a piece of steel vibrating for a long time? Are the balloons ready?

Transcript:
Crustacean musical instrument

JM: To create new kinds of musical sounds, you can design a new musical instrument, perhaps starting with a material that vibrates when you strike, pluck or bow it. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

We're listening to an instrument called the Crustacean. Can you guess what's vibrating?

BH: Let's say you have a big sheet of stainless steel, and-and it makes a wonderful sound when it vibrates, but when you hold it, it stops vibrating. Well, how you gonna hold it if you like that sound?

JM: Musical instrument designer Bart Hopkin is one the scientists and engineers in this year's Kid Science Challenge. He says that the inventor of the Crustacean, San Francisco musician Tom Nunn, placed a bunch of balloons in buckets, and lay the sheet of stainless steel on top of them.

BH: It's really wobbly and loose, but, boy, it can really vibrate. And then, you hit it with a mallet, and it will ring forever, and it'll produce this terrific thunderous gong.

JM: Now if you attach a series of different sized bronze rods to the steel sheet, and bow these like a giant upright bass well this is what it sounds like.

BH: If you're letting the instrument take you where it wants to take you instead of having mastery over the instrument, when-the standard thing with conventional instruments is, "You want to become a master of this instrument. You have complete control over it." What if you have a different attitude and you say, "Where can this instrument take me?" You can-you can arrive in musical places that you might not have thought of otherwise,

JM: Do you know a third to sixth grader who wants to come up with a musical invention their own? Visit kidsciencechallenge dot com to learn about our free nationwide competition. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.