The Moog Hackathon, sponsored by Moog Music, allows students the chance to build their own musical instrument with a Moog synthesizer for cash and prizes. The winning instrument, Hantrakul’s “Moog’s Greatest Hits,” was an unexpected combination of a drum and a synthesizer attached to a cardboard box.
“Whatever you attach the synthesizer to, it makes a different noise,” Hantrakul and his team explained. That’s why they chose a cardboard box. The sound would have been different with a wooden box or plastic.
Attendance for this year’s Hackathon was the largest to date, featuring over 25 different teams from different Georgia Tech schools, teams from Morehouse, Spelman, Webb Bridge middle school students and their parents, and even one team signed up from Michigan. The event was held in the School of Music rehearsal hall– normally home to both the Marching Band and Symphony Orchestra. The Hackathon crowd rivaled both.
As the Hackathon commenced, Chris Howe, a judge for the event, asked the room how many of the competitors enjoyed working with music, and electronics. Many of the students raised not just one hand, but both in response.
Howe, a project engineer at Moog Music and an alumnus of the Music Technology graduate program, knows how they feel. Competitors worked hard on their inventions for 48 hours. The ten finalist teams designed an incredible variety of instruments that were immediately playable. One was a circuit board you could hold in your hand like a Raspberry Pi, one looked like a Mardi Gras hat, one was even inspired by bagpipes.
Howe and one of his fellow judges, Electrical and Computer Engineering professor Aaron Lanterman, admitted that many of Hackathon instruments could have won first place any other year of the competition.
The night was capped off by Lanterman’s eight-year-old son asking the crowd of finalists to play one final jam session together before leaving. The Couch building boomed with analog music well into the night.
FIRST PLACE: MOOG'S GREATEST HITS
Created by Lamtharn (Hanoi) Hantrakul, Zack Kondak, Somesh Ganesh, the instrument is an an unexpected combination of a drum and a synthesizer attached to a cardboard box that is described as "Moog's Greatest Hits". The team was awarded entry into the Guthman Musical Instrument Competition, a Moog Werkstatt, and a $3000 dollar cash prize.
SECOND PLACE: THE NON-LINEAR ANALOG EXPANDER
Created by Victor Pino and Matt Egan, their instrument is a purely analog synthesizer circuit that expands and pushes the capabilities of Moog Werkstatt. Victor and Matt were awarded a Moog Werkstatt and $2000 dollar cash prize.
THIRD PLACE: THE SPINNING PLATES OF SOUND
Created by Takumi Ogata and Avrosh Kumar, their instrument converts the light from a phone and the rotation of the plates into crazy synthesized sounds. Takumi and Avrosh were awarded a Moog Werkstatt and $1000 dollar cash prize.
HONORABLE MENTION: PIPE BROKEN
Created by Shi Cheng, Rex Wang, Alan Liu, Joe Yan , their instrument modeled bagpipes to create an array of unconventional sounds.
HONORABLE MENTION: SIGMOIDO
Created Christopher Deese, Krish Ravindranath, Jack Thomson, and Mitcham Tuell, their guitar type instrument was used to create plucking synthesized sounds.