A lot of kids would see rubbers bands as weapons to be flung at the back of their classmates' heads. Not Paul Poulos, Kalin Ngo, and Robert Schill.
The students from Westlake High School in Westlake, Ohio, attached rubber bands to wood boxes to create a musical instrument that plays real live music. And not Justin Bieber, either. Bach's "J'esu, Joy of Man's Desiring."
Their DIY instrument so impressed the judges of the Design Squad Nation's Big Build Contest that it netted them first prize in the competition. The contest, sponsored by the PBS competition series, challenged teams of 'tweens and teens, led by an adult mentor, to super-size one of the 40 Design Squad hands-on projects found online.
As with last year's contest--which focused on the green inventions and yielded projects like a kids' commuter bike and a temporary shelter for disaster victims--this year's devices showed some serious inventor moxie. The two runners-up and nine finalists created a confetti-launching trebuchet; a solar-powered hot tub; a bamboo sailboat with a tarp for the sail; an electromagnetic crane; and an entire living room made out of recycled cardboard, to name just a handful.
For the grand-prize-winning contraption, called String Thing, the inventors attached rubber band "strings" to handmade plywood "sound boxes" that amplify the strains of the strummed rubber bands in much the same way a guitar works. Nine separate sections hold nine strings, and each string is tuned to a different note based on markers that hold the string down. Though the bands are lined up to play the Bach composition in the video below, the instrument is totally customizable by moving the markers on the strings. … Read more