Musical Turn Wheel

Musical Turn Wheel


This project was completed in the Fall (2016) for Introduction to Physical Computing. I partnered with an architecture major to create a musical turntable, using an Arduino UNO, that children got to test out in the Pittsburgh Children's Museum. 

The theme of this project was 'Making Things Magic.' The goal was to use physical computing in order to evoke wonder and delight in children.

We tried to demonstrate a correlation between visual notation and aural structure with notched dials. This project is a wheel with 3 notched dials, which makes 3 different tones. Each individual dial along with the whole wheel can be adjusted to make music with different rhythms and tempos. 


The objective was simplicity. There was an emphasis on the rotary motion that would output noises based on the motion. In order to achieve this, we created a singular turn wheel with three dials. Each dial emits a different tone, which is triggered by photoresistors sensing light through the notches. The dials can be rotated individually and based on its orientation relative to each other, the musical structure changes. The wheel was pitched so that it is more approachable to children of different heights and is facing out so that children across room can notice it.


We thought that the interface was successful in inciting a sense of wonder in children at varying degrees. Some children would be engrossed in the dials and their positioning beyond 5 minutes while others were interested in the overall rotational motion, testing the spinning to its limits. Overall, they understood that there is a correlation between the noise emitted and rotational movement. What could have been further developed were the notch distribution and the possibility for the notches to be varied by the user, so that it has the potential to be an instrument.