Music Technology as a Vehicle to STEM/STEAM for High School Students

The Summer Music Technology Program (SMT) offers a truly unique educational experience for rising high school freshmen and sophomores. The week-long program, initiated in 2006 as part of an NSF CAREER award, aims to introduce its participants to the concepts underlying modern music technology through inquiry-based projects and activities, drawing upon common music listening and playing experiences. The vast majority of young people today encounter music technology in their daily lives, yet the misconception persists that the arts and engineering are disparate paths requiring entirely separate skill sets. For this reason, the program places heavy emphasis on the mutually reinforcing relationship between engineering and music, with new technology opening up new creative possibilities and newly discovered limitations demanding yet more technical solutions. By presenting the basics of these technologies accessibly in this context, we hope to catalyze curiosity and motivate further investigation which can potentially steer students onto a career path in STEM. The NSF GK-12 Fellowship is another program that encourages pre-college students to pursue a career in STEM, but in the context of the fourteen National Academy of Engineering (NAE) grand challenges, a set of foreseeable problems to be overcome in the 21st century. The NSF- funded program pairs graduate students in STEM with K-12 teachers to develop application- driven, project-based lessons that reinforce concepts and motivate further study of aspects of the science and math curriculum throughout the school year. These projects attempt to connect the abstract and conceptual with application, in the process de-mystifying some of the technologies students take for granted by illustrating how the concepts they learn in science and math can be applied to the betterment of humanity. This paper is an investigation into the efficacy of a subset of the SMT modules in a modified form outside of the SMT environment, namely deployment as GK-12 projects.

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