Light Up Music Box
Project Plan Materials
Download Transcripts
Apply for DIY Grant

For best experience, please use browsers: Chrome v44+, Safari v9+, Firefox v40+, Internet Explorer v11+

Creative Commons License
Light Up Music Box by Tracey Winey and Dawn DuPriest, 2016 Allen Distinguished Educators is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Project Overview

This is an engaging project for students who have never programmed before. Students create a musical light show by designing and programming their own Arduino-based circuit. They will problem-solve timing, frequency, color, circuit design and the language of Arduino-based programming to create custom made light-up electronic music boxes. Students will learn about: circuit design, get an introduction to computer programming, and play with the fusion of color, sound, art and mathematics. 

Tracey Winey and Dawn DuPriest

School: Preston Middle School

Type of School: Public – District

Location: Fort Collins, CO

School Population: 1,058

Demographic: 21% minority students

% Free/reduced lunch program: 14%

Learning Outcomes

This project integrates math, physics, computer science, music, and 21st century skills. This project meets learning standards in math, creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration, research and information fluency, critical thinking, problem solving, decision making, technology, and computer science. Students will be able to create a circuit using an Arduino microcontroller and modify a computer program, describe principles of primary colors, extend their knowledge of circuits and physical computing, convert musical notes to frequencies, and apply the musical arts to new technology.
Download the open-source Project Plan Materials to view a complete list of standards and learning outcomes addressed in this project.

How Tracey and Dawn Did It

 Grade: 7th – 8th

Timing: 2-3 weeks

Subjects: Math, physics, computer science, music, 21st century skills

Materials: Breadboards to be used with an Arduino, 5-10 colorful LED’s, 5-10 resistors (220 or 330 ohms), One RGB LED, a small piezo buzzer, 20+ jumper wires, a computer with the Arduino IDE and Arduino drivers installed

Project Steps: Tracey and Dawn implement this project in four stages following an initial hour preparation. The stages include: Blinking Lights, RGB Color, Creating Music, and Light-Up Music Box.

How You Can Do It

Grade: 6 - 12th  

Timing: 2-6 weeks (divided in the four project steps in a way that compliments your school bell schedule)

Subjects: Math, physics, computer science, music, 21st century skills, art, presentations

Materials: The Arduino hardware and software as well as the LEDs, resistors, buzzer and jumper wires are required for this project. Optional materials include items to make decorative boxes such as shoe boxes, wrapping paper, sequins, pom-poms etc.

Project Steps: Depending on your students’ familiarity with programing and circuits you may need to provide additional time and instruction during these stages. As an extra musical challenge, you could pair students together to orchestrate their music boxes. You could also encourage your students to share their work through a presentation.
Sign in to comment or ask questions.
New User? Please create an account to comment
Already have an account? Please sign In

Comments (9)
Melanie Stafford
8/16/2017 3:51:53 PM

Teacher from Philadelphia, PA
To Dawn, Tracey, and Allen Distinguished Educators,

Thank you for making the Light-Up Music DIY Guide available. I made the following modifications/adaptations to the guide when I implemented it in my math class during the 2016-17 school year:

1. Incorporated the guide as a project in my 9th grade Algebra 1 class. I taught mathematics that was specific to electrical circuits during the project. Because our class periods were shorter, it took us longer to complete, but all of my students (20) were able to complete the project.
2. We introduced the students to design thinking and empathy as a way to think about designing and coding their music boxes.
3. I collaborated with other teachers at my school so that they could bring their expertise to the project. Business Education teachers taught students about design thinking. Our Building Trades/Electricity teacher taught the students about education.

Students were proud about the work they did even though they struggled through it. I plan to do this project again.

Melanie Stafford

Jamie Walker
8/16/2017 1:04:07 PM

Teacher from Springdale, AR
If you are a teacher thinking about doing this project...DO IT! This is a fantastic DIY Guide that is perfect for first time programmers. It was well organized and thoughtfully designed. With little guidance from me, my students learned how to code Arduinos and wire circuits to create light and sound. The results were amazing! Can't wait to try it again with this year's bunch!

Vanessa Lail
8/16/2017 12:30:58 PM

Teacher from Hickory, NC
This was a great project for my students! Our sixth graders study light and sound, and science teachers were looking for more activities to explore these standards with students. This project fit the bill perfectly and I implemented it in the media center with an enrichment group. The students had a great chance to explore sound frequency, music, circuits, and computer science. We are ready to move on with more Arduino projects in the coming year.

Vicky Sedgwick
8/4/2017 6:17:50 PM

Teacher from Winnetka, CA
I would love to know what kinds of materials people provided to decorate the music boxes. Did anyone provide actual boxes to put this in and if so, how did you amplify the sound?

Jenny Burns
9/6/2016 8:58:26 AM

Allen Distinguished Educators Moderator

Thank you for these kind words to Tracey and Dawn! Have you considered bringing this project to your students?

- Jenny

Melanie Stafford
9/3/2016 9:03:47 AM

Teacher from Philadelphia, PA
Hi Tracey and Dawn,

I love this project! This is a great way to show students the connections between STEM and music.


Jenny Burns
7/20/2016 1:37:40 PM

Allen Distinguished Educators Moderator
Hi Dawn,

Thanks for sharing this great insight about the Arduino-based electronic kits! It sounds like this project could serve as a great jumping-off-point for teachers interested in working more with Arduino in general.

Also, thanks for offering to help teachers shop around for the right kit! Since you and Tracey are both very active on Twitter, I will include your Twitter handles below for teachers who want to connect.

Dawn DuPriest: @DuPriestMath
Tracey Winey: @premediawine

Dawn DuPriest
7/20/2016 12:44:30 PM

Teacher from Fort Collins, CO
The $1000 DIY grant would be well suited for buying a class set of Arduino-based electronics kits. There are many choices out there! We recommend getting kits with LED's, resistors, RGB LED's, and piezo buzzers. The projects have more possibilities for extension if you get more full-featured kits with sensors, motors and more. Let us know if we can help you shop!

Jenny Burns
6/30/2016 12:41:15 PM

Allen Distinguished Educators Moderator
How can teachers adapt this project to fit their own classrooms? Does anyone have suggestions or recommendations?

Thank you for downloading an Allen Distinguished Educator DIY guide!

Please provide your e-mail address for opportunities to connect with the ADE community, receive updates from the program, receive recognition for using the DIY Guide and to share your feedback with the program team.

Email Address: