Electronics as Material

An Intro

This course was intended to be a beginner friendly gateway to eventually get down and dirty with the world of electronics. Having said that, the theme behind this week was to make sound using DIY electronic instruments and speakers. It allowed as to explore various materials and learn about their electro/magnetic properties and figure out how to turn them into sensing or actuating components. It helped people who have never worked with electronics before to get familiar and comfortable with it, and on the other side allowed experts in this field to explore and try things they have never done before. You will definitely get to see some crazy sh*t that our class built at the end of this course, it was a lot of fun.

Hannah Perner-Wilson and David Gauthier

Our Teachers

Hannah Perner-Wilson and David Gauthier were our extremely passionate teachers for the week who have done their fair share of wild experimentation in this field. Hannah has been part of the high-low tech research group at the MIT Media Lab and is the co-founder at Kobakant, she has worked on a multitude of projects in the wearable space using conducting materials and crafting techniques.

David has scientific and artistic research expertise in domains ranging from actuated textiles to viral communications. His work and teachings explore creative use of technologies as a mean to probe and develop future scenarios involving humans and machines. He has also been part of the MIT Media Lab.


This week opened a new door for me in the field of electronics and allowed me to explore a pallet of new tools such as conductive paint and threads, piezo sheets, sound transducers, etc. Moreover, the objective for this course was to create sounds and symphonies using our own handmade speakers and it couldn’t get any better. The inspirations that were shared to us for this week were the experimental works of John Cage and Pierre Schaeffer.

Through the week, we were able to experiment on the following:

  1. Building embroidered speakers using conductive thread as well as regular speakers using transducers and hand made coils.
  2. Building an amplifier and synth using the Atari Punk Console circuit.
  3. Making electronic instruments using piezo sheets, conductive paints and tapes.
  4. Creating a short musical performance for our final demonstration.

Many of my classmates who were intimidated by electronics before, started to slowly fall in love with it. And the best part of the week was on Friday, when we saw and listened to all the weird sounds and music that each team played using their instruments, John Cage would have been impressed for sure ;)


BottleBeat: Ine-Charlotte, Radhika Agarwal, Sebastian Hunkeler, Arvind Sanjeev

BottleBeat is a one minute piece inspired by John Cage that explores the acoustic properties of different materials – creating a rhythm with alternating glass pitches. A rotating arm creates base melodies as it strikes the different bottles placed around it. Each performance is uniquely composed as performers alter the objects interacted with and the order in which they are brought in to the beat. In addition to the rotating arm, several other instruments make up this sound ecosystem including:

Metallic Foil Speakers:
Speakers with metallic foil as their diaphragm were created to produce a thunderous rattle. Electromagnetism, strong neodymium magnets and copper coils were used to create this effect.

Piezo mics:
Three piezo contact mics were attached to different materials to augment their subtle sounds. The first mic was attached to the metallic base of a cup to make audible the gushing of water and clashing of small objects. The second piezo was used as an input mechanism to operate the metallic foil speakers. The third piezo was fixed around the rotary mechanism, creating the base beat of the system.

Through these experiments, a stronger understanding of sound capturing, amplification and reproduction techniques developed. Several versions of fabricated speakers were built and tested out to select the ones with the best acoustic properties. These experiments also allowed for an in depth exploration of conductive materials such as threads, paints, and resistance varying polymers that can be used in sound production systems. And above all, we had a lot of FUN!


Some more super experimental and crazy projects from the class:

Score: Anoushka Garg, Rachel Lane, Yee Mun Ooi, Jens Obel


Entropy Ceremony: Taishi Kamiya, Esther Bretschneider, Can Yanardag, Kelvyn Marte

More projects from this class can be seen here: Electronics as Material projects.

This is just a short intro to my life at CIID, I will be publishing more posts on the different topics we learn as well as the projects we do through this blog. Furthermore, all the credits to the media content for this blog goes to the IDP class of 2017.

Add your comment