Budding virtuosos from primary schools across London visited the Royal Academy of Engineering last week as an orchestra with a difference took to the stage. The electo-mechanical maestros of Professor Danielle George’s award-winning Robot Orchestra serenaded nearly 200 pupils in a special event as part of the Year of Engineering. Schools were invited to attend through the Academy’s Connecting STEM Teachers programme.
Professor George, Professor of Radio Frequency Engineering at the University of Manchester, assembled the first Robot Orchestra for her Royal Institution Christmas Lectures in 2014, broadcast on BBC4. Schools across Manchester designed their own robot performers to join the ensemble for Manchester’s European City of Science programme in 2016. The Robot Orchestra project encouraged young people, from the age of seven upwards, to learn computer coding and recycle household materials to make robot instruments that could be linked up to a robotic conductor to play in unison.
The Robot Orchestra has been highly successful, even performing a specially composed piece with the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, and in 2016 the Academy recognised Professor George’s efforts with the Royal Academy of Engineering Rooke Award for public promotion of engineering. At its peak the Robot Orchestra comprised around 50 robots built from recycled electronics and junk from an eclectic mix of donors including the Women’s Institute, the National Trust, the Manchester Transport Network and from Siemens, who designed a robot conductor.
Professor George says:
“This is the last performance in the tour for the Robot Orchestra and it’s been great to perform at the Academy and show children how creative engineering is. I hope we’ve shown people that tinkering with junk can be fun and also result in genuine discoveries that enable us to make useful gadgets. We have been on a real voyage of adventure with the orchestra project and learnt a lot about the way that humans and machines can work together in the future.”
Notes for Editors
Schools attending the event were:
Cheam Common Junior Academy
Christ Church CE Primary School, Brondesbury
St Joseph's Federation (Infants), Upper Norwood
Woodhill Primary School
Daubeney Primary School
Royal Academy of Engineering. As the UK’s national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering. We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK’s role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK’s world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook.
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