Engineers and schoolchildren hoping for ‘legacy’ from ‘ingenious’ robot orchestra

Some may fear that robots will eventually take over the world, but engineers in Manchester are at least ensuring that our demise will sound spectacular.

200 pupils from 20 schools have been working with engineers, a music orchestra, and University of Manchester academics to create a robot orchestra display.

The students attended the Great Hall at the University’s Sackville Street Building, where they split into groups to build a total of 20 music-making robots.

The robots have been designed in consultation with electrical giant Siemens, who have selected seven of the best robots made on the day at Great Hall to be linked with the central co-ordinating robot – called Graphene, because it is a great conductor.

For the performance, there will be a combination of eight human musicians plus the robot performing the classical music in July.

The Robot Orchestra is an idea that has been created by two academics at the University of Manchester, Engineer Professor Danielle George, and citizen scientist Dr Erinma Ochu MBE. 

 “We think this project is the first citizen engineering project of its kind,” Professor George told MM.

“It has been designed to take people out of their comfort zone, including engineers.

“The inspiration and creativity that these children had on the day at Great Hall from primary through to secondary school was amazing.  They were coming up with some very innovative and ingenious instruments.

“The exhibition has also carried on in local schools where students are creating their own robot orchestras, so we are hoping that it has a legacy of its own.”

The robot orchestra will give its full debut on July 24 at Manchester Central Convention Complex, on the launch day of the Euroscience Open Forum, Europe’s largest science conference. 

The robot-playing instruments are constructed partly by recycled materials, including violins, glockenspiels and xylophones, as well as dated technology such as computer floppy discs.

Amongst the creations from this project,   the children were able to see an automated glockenspiel and a hexapod robot ‘spider’ which plays music with its eight feet.

The Robot Orchestra is one of the projects being showcased in Manchester this year, as it celebrates its title of European City of Science, the first time a British City has been awarded the accolade.

The Halle Orchestra have been appointed to ensure that the instrument-playing robots stay in tune, and are currently holding rehearsals.

Steve Pickett, the Education Director, composed an original piece called Fanfare – The Robots Are Coming for the project, which captures the creativity of the mood perfectly. 

Professor George said: “It’s really nice to bring the music, science and engineering together, and shows that if children are creative they don’t have to make one choice over another.

“There have also been other organisations that have expressed an interest across Europe including other science fares and music concerts.”

In October, there will be another performance at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry which will involve the Halle Orchestra as well as other orchestras and promises to be an exciting spectacle.

For more information about the Robot Orchestra, click here

Image courtesy of Robot Orchestra, with thanks.

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