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Workshop: Make Anything into a MIDI Controller

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Saturday March 2nd, 12 -5pm Tickets: $75 (includes micro-controller, usb cable & battery pack)

This workshop will introduce you to the wide world of 'micro-controllers' - simplified miniature computers that can be programmed to do just about anything! We'll be programming them to act as custom MIDI output devices for controlling both hardware and software based synths. MIDI can be used to play notes but also to change patches, set pitch bend & modulation parameters, as well as filter cut-off and resonance - just to name a few!

In the attached video demonstration ( you can see class instructor Peter Serano testing his prototype MIDI Penguin Controller - which utilizes a 3D accelerometer (rotation sensor) to set the volume, pitch, and modulation parameters of notes played based on the rotation of the penguin! - The micro-controller is programmed to read the rotation sensor and output a digital MIDI command to a laptop where it's interpreted into analog audio by a synth patch in GarageBand!  

The majority of this workshop will go over the practical details you need to know to quickly get up and running with microcontroller programming. No previous coding experience required! - We'll go over two compatible programming interfaces/languages. The first is Microsoft "MakeCode' - a simple graphical interface where you can create your MIDI controller using large colorful blocks arranged with an intuitive graphical user interface. We'll then go over the full featured 'Arduino' development environment and an introduction to the 'C' programming language.

We will be learning with the Adafruit 'Circuit Playground Express' - a powerful but easy to program micro-controller packed with integrated sensor inputs: an accelerometer & gyroscope for 3D position, tap, & free-fall detection, a light/color sensor, a temperature sensor, a microphone, 2x push buttons; a slide switch; and 7x capacitive touch inputs! - It also features a variety of integrated output devices - 10x multi-color programmable LEDs, a piezo-speaker, a serial port, and an infrared (IR) Transmitter for controlling TVs and other consumer electronics that use remote controls!

Attendees will need to bring a laptop (Apple/OSX or PC/Windows) as well as one object you'd like to turn into a MIDI controller. - Think about how you'd like to manipulate the object (movement, light, touch, etc.) and how you'd like the sound to be modified by that manipulation (change in volume, pitch, etc.). - This workshop aims to give you a solid foundation in the tools you need to create your own MIDI controller but since time is limited we may not have time to make custom hardware modifications (drilling, etc) to your particular midi-controller object.

About the Instructors:

Peter Serano:  Peter is an electrical engineer and multi-instrumentalist musician who owns and operates the Rock'n Repair Shop - Washington DC's premier musical electronics repair shop! They have a master's degree in Electrical Engineering and over 10 years of experience designing and prototyping circuits of all kinds!

Trent Robertson: Trent is an electrical engineer with a focus on software engineering and micro-controller programming in-particular. He has over 10 years of experience creating interactive lighting & visualization projects including a massive Tetris themed art installation at Burning Man!

Registration fee includes an Adafruit Circuit Playground Express micro-controller starter kit which includes the micro-controller, usb cable, & battery pack as well as 5 hours of interactive instruction from two experienced electrical engineers!