Sparkling Science – Sparkling Instruments

2. September 2021 OeAD60Public Science
Ein junger Mann arbeitet an einem digitalen Musikinstrument
Design and construction of digital musical instruments for knowledge transfer in music education and STEM subjects

In order to initiate cooperation between science, schools and society and to strengthen networking activities the OeAD supports numerous initiatives and projects at the interface between education, research and society on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF).

For example, within the framework of the research funding programme Sparkling Science scientists worked side by side with youngsters on current research questions in a total of 299 funded projects.

Today Dr. Oliver Hödl and Univ.Prof. Dr. Fares Kayali let us take a look at the “making” of their Sparkling Science project “Sparkling Instruments”. It dealt with designing digital musical instruments in a playful way and developing them technically. Three groups of pupils, one of them an all-girls group, first tried out existing instruments and music games. Then, in a series of workshops with musicians, game designers and music technology experts the pupils designed playful forms of interaction with music and technically implemented them in the form of instruments.

The idea

Two colleagues from the same discipline (Human-Computer Interaction) had an idea for a joint project: Fares Kayali, an experienced project leader (game research, didactics) and Oliver Hödl, a doctoral student at the time (musician, construction of digital musical instruments) decided to combine their ideas. As computer scientists they are both also well-versed in the STEM subjects. Then one thing led to another and the idea for “Sparkling Instruments” was born.

The aim was to build a bridge between art and technology. In this highly interdisciplinary context the understanding of new forms of music making was to be improved and at the same time interest in the STEM subjects involved in the construction of digital musical instruments, such as computer science and physics, was to be awakened or deepened.

About Sparkling Science

Oliver Hödl: It's great! It enables schools and universities to cross-fertilise. Our project idea only came about because we “had” to cooperate with a school and the school would otherwise never have had such intensive contact with the university and the latest research. Moreover, the cooperation with the school and the teacher has continued and has been going on for a long time and far beyond the project.

The “making of”: the proposal

Fortunately a school for cooperation and a motivated teacher, Paul, were found very quickly due to another project (Austrian Science Fund – FWF). Writing the proposal was actually almost fun and to our great delight it was accepted in the first round with excellent reviews.

The project

The project was very well received. You could see the enthusiasm for the subject throughout the whole school year. Subsequently, even final papers were written on the topic and the enthusiasm of the pupils and the teacher for the project spilled over to the whole school. Final papers, enthusiasm for STEM and music emerged. The pupils were provided with a change from the usual subject matter and had the opportunity to get to know university and research at an early stage and to participate.

Unforgotten moments

Oliver Hödl: The kick-off workshop at school and a short talk to the class as an introduction. That was the first time in well over 15 years that I was back at school myself. Likewise, the interest and the shining eyes of the pupils when they were able to try out prototypes of new electronic and digital musical instruments for themselves.

Fares Kayali: ... And the great atmosphere at the three final concerts at the end of the school year!


Absolutely! It is worth taking Sparkling Science as a “reason” to think about innovative research projects. The OeAD made the project possible for us in the first place and the process went absolutely smoothly.

More information about Sparkling Science