thank-you-for-music-logoMaths, music and engineering have collided at the start of Bristol school children’s first term of the year as global engineering firm Renishaw and the Colston Hall’s Bristol Music Trust join forces to launch the Music Tech Lab.

Offering local primary aged children from 12 schools the opportunity to learn about engineering, maths and music in a new creative and inspiring way, the two organisations have partnered with hi-tech educators Conductive Music, to have children designing and building their own digital music instruments using circuits drawn on paper, Raspberry Pi’s and more!

“Music Tech Lab will bring together computer programming, electronic engineering, and design, offering children huge variety in their learning”


Louise Mitchell, Chief Executive of Bristol Music Trust (pictured above), says: “We are always looking for new ways to deliver our music education programmes that will inspire and encourage young people. Bristol Plays Music’s Technology Lab will bring together computer programming, electronic engineering, and design to support the music curriculum, offering children huge variety in their learning.”

Young engineers in the South West

Renishaw_balloon_near_Clifton_Suspension_Bridge_August_2012In what has been cited as a ‘skills crisis’, the UK has experienced a shortage of highly skilled engineers over the last few years and with hundreds of engineering companies based in the Bristol and Bath in particular, it’s projects like the Music Tech Lab that could change the future for the South West’s young generation.

“We have to take responsibility for developing the skills that our businesses need to grow in the future”


Chris Pockett, Renishaw’s Head of Communications, tells us: “All the research that we have seen suggests that if young children are not interested in science by years 5 or 6, then it is unlikely that they will develop that interest in later years, so working with primary schools is fundamentally important to our aims to develop new generations of engineers and scientists.”

“As employers we cannot simply sit back and complain about the level of skills amongst young people and expect other organisations and government agencies to rectify the situation. We also have to take some responsibility for developing the skills that our businesses need to grow in the future.”

Hi-tech curriculum

Highly creative and stimulating, the Music Tech Lab workshops will focus on the scientific concepts of engineering and acoustics, which are also key elements in Key Stage 2 music:

  • Conductive Music – in order to build their own digital musical instruments, pupils will be introduced to simple explanations of electrical circuits, building musical instruments with the Arduino-based Makey Makey boards and fruit and vegetables, and performing music in groups;
  • Drawing Music Science – batteries, switches, LEDS, LDRs, diodes, transistors, buttons and potentiometers will combine to form linear circuits drawn entirely on paper. Pupils will then create circuits with their own design using conductive ink. Flows of electricity trigger music making devices, for example a Raspberry Pi, to trigger notes. Hand-drawn electronic synthesisers will play songs.

What’s next?

The Colston Hall is hoping it can expand the Music Tech Lab, alongside the Bristol Music Trust’s involvement in other music and educational programmes in the near future – including those with older children and adults from all backgrounds and levels of ability.

Louise says: “Once we’ve carried out the Music Tech Lab trial project in local schools, we will consider how the programme could be extended to benefit children across the wider region.”

Chris agrees: “We are very interested to see the results of the Music Tech Lab and then decide how we can extend its benefits further, either by taking it to more primary school age children or secondary school pupils.”

“We are aiming to positively promote STEM activities and careers to ensure a future supply of skilled engineers and scientists”


Chris also tells us about some of the other educational schemes Renishaw is a part of within the South West: “Within the Bristol and Gloucestershire region, we already have significant outreach programmes with secondary and primary schools, where we are aiming to positively promote STEM activities and careers. This includes a mix of initiatives including helping to run engineering clubs, support electric car racing teams and sponsor STEM competitions.”

“All of our work is ultimately about trying to ensure a future supply of skilled engineers and scientists, whether that be to join Renishaw as an apprentice or graduate trainee, or to ensure that our customers and suppliers also have enough skilled employees.”

Supporting the arts in the South West

For the Colston Hall to continue with a whole host of educational projects such as the Music Tech Lab and more, it is aiming to raise a whopping £45 million by 2017 as part of huge transformation plans.

These are plans that could see the Colston Hall transformed into an international concert facility and a national centre for entertainment, education and enterprise across the arts – music, comedy, theatre, dance and the visual arts.

So why not find out more about how you could help support the Colston Hall with their 45k for £45 million campaign.

Keep an eye out on the TechSPARK site for updates on the Music Tech Lab in the coming months. To stay up-to-date with the Colston Hall, you can follow them and their #40kfor40m on Twitter @Colston_Hall. You can also follow Renishaw on Twitter @renishawplc.