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Cub Scout Geek Out with X41 Tablet and Electroplankton

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but Rachel and I are Cub Scout Webelos den leaders. Of course, I try to be the geekiest den leader there is. We have made PVC marshmallow shooters from the HowToons comic I read in Make Magazine. We were inspired to drop Mentos into a bottle of Coke by the video that showed up on Google Video, and made its way around Digg and the other usual places. Tonight, we had a pack meeting (about 10 boys age 7-10, their parents, and leaders). The theme was “Music Magic”, and I volunteered to show off some cool musical things you can do with computers as the main presentation.

I went up with my X41 tablet, and first showed off Adobe Audition. The default session that Audition comes with is pretty cool to look at, with all the loops and samples, and sounds like a cool little ditty you’d hear on the radio or TV. I showed how you can drag the tracks around to change it, and what a normal, recognizeable song looks like when imported into Audition (just the basic waveform). I then recorded the kids singing a verse of “Jingle Bells”, and applied some cool effects – pitch shift, etc. They thought it was all very cool, and was great to have the tablet in slate mode, and be able to move it around and show everyone, rather than just sit there, and have everyone crowd around the screen.

Next up was Electroplankton on my Nintendo DS. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s not really a game, but more like interactive media art. There are ten aquatic themed, uh, things that do different musical things. Pentatonic harmonies, voice sampling, various intstrument sounds and rhythms, etc., all controlled by the touch screen on the DS. It’s very hard to explain, but very cool, and you can quite easily make some very interesting music. So I pulled the DS out of my pocket, and they all crowded around to see. We did some voice changing and sampling, and basically messed around.

On the surface, I was supposedly showing them how they could use computers and electronics in creative and maybe unexpected ways to make or mix music. In reality, though, I was just a big kid, up front showing off and sharing his cool toys with all the other kids.

Is it any wonder I love being a Cub Scout leader? :-)

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