Digital Music and Signal Processing Afterschool Club

Project: Research project

Project Details


The Tangible Interaction Design and Learning (TIDAL) Lab is an interdisciplinary research
group at Northwestern University with expertise in Computer Science, Education, and
Music Technology ( The TIDAL Lab partners with community
organizations in the greater Chicago area to create equitable learning experiences that
engage students whose voices have been historically marginalized in STEM fields. Over the
past four years we have created a free, online learning platform called TunePad
( that enables the creation of music through computer programming.
When someone first visits the TunePad site, they can browse through a library of popular
songs, follow step-by-step interactive tutorials, or listen to music created by other users. All
of the music on TunePad is built entirely with Python code and can be remixed as a starting
point for new projects.
More recently we have been developing a digital signal processing component of TunePad
that allows learners to create customized musical instruments using modular audio
synthesis techniques starting from waveforms, samples, and noise and including a variety
of filters, effects, and modulators.
We propose a partnership with the IEEE Signal Processing Society to directly engage
students of color in Chicago Public Schools through an afterschool club on the topics of
music and technology. The project will involve four components and include opportunities
for SPS members to contribute through volunteer activities. If successful, the curriculum
and technology developed in year 1 will be made available to a much larger audience.
Component 1: Technology (Sept - January)
The TunePad team will complete the digital signal processing component of the TunePad
web platform. We anticipate four months of development time with a completion date of
January 2021.
Component 2: Curriculum (Sept - January)
The TunePad team will collaborate with SPS volunteers to develop curriculum and
documentation on digital signal processing appropriate for middle school learners.
Component 3: Afterschool Club (January - April, 2021)
In partnership with the James R. Jordan Foundation, the TunePad team will run afterschool
clubs at four Chicago Public Schools from January - April, 2021. The clubs focus on topics of
music and technology and will be an ideal setting to pilot test new curriculum and
technology developed in partnership with SPS. We will also create opportunities for
members of SPS to volunteer their time and expertise as guest speakers.
Component 4: Scale-Up (April - )
After the afterschool clubs complete, we will refine and publish our curriculum and
technology for broader use. We look forward to working with SPS to identify other potential
partner sites.
Effective start/end date6/1/215/31/22


  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc (Agmt 4/14/21)


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