Frederick students to try hands at recreating Hopkins’ ‘Air Guitar’ program -- Gazette.Net


Students at Parkway Elementary in Frederick are about to learn more about an innovative Johns Hopkins University project, which five years ago created a way for amputees to play the popular Guitar Hero video game using only the electrical signals from their residual muscles.

Thanks to a $5,000 private grant this year, the school will start a new after-school program that will teach students how to recreate the university’s “Air Guitar” project at school, said Lawrence Paul, the school’s enrichment specialist who will oversee the program.

As part of the project, students will build a device that allows the users to play the guitar without ever having to hold it or use their fingers. They will complete the project using only their knowledge of electronics and scavenged materials, such as tin foil, old video games and electrical wires, Paul said.

“They are going to see a real-world application of what they’ve learned at school,” said Paul, who believes that Parkway may be the first school to partner with on this project with the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel.

“We are excited about this,” he said.

The project will allow students to learn to work by trial and error, like real scientists, according to Paul.

During the design and construction process, students will learn about the basic concepts of electronics and conductivity, as well as rehabilitation engineering and surface sensors used for the Air Guitar interface.

“We are going learn as we go,” he said.

The school hopes to offer the program as an after-school club to students in the third through fifth grades, Paul said. The program will be available in two sessions — one in the fall and another in the spring — with each 10-week session open to about 21 students, he said.

“We’d like to offer it to as many students as we can,” he said.

If there is a high demand from students to participate in the program, the school may have to come up with an application process, he said.

The idea for the program came from a Pakway Elementary parent Courtney Moran, who works at the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory and will be involved in the new initiative, according to Paul.

Moran, who has two children at the school, had wanted to bring the project to the classroom, but until this year there was no funding to support it.

But this year, the school was able to get a grant for the program from Clinical Research Management, Inc., a contract research organization, which provides some grants to support innovative school programs.

The grant funds will pay for teacher salaries and materials.

Elizabeth Little, Parkway Elementary principal, said the new program will fit nicely with other science, technology, engineering and math education that the school offers. Last year, Parkway Elementary students participated in a GPS treasure hunt, which required them to use GPS coordinates to find hidden treasures in Baker Park, Little said.

This year, she expects to have plenty of interested students signing up for the Air Guitar project.

“We have an incredibly supportive community,” Little said.

At this stage, school officials are not sure whether they will be able to offer the program again after the grant funding runs out at the end of the year. But they are hopeful that if there is enough interest, they may be able to find alternative ways of funding.

“We’d love to be able to continue it next year,” Paul said.