Ask Galen Pickard if he ever heard of Lawrence Welk and he gives you that look.
You know that look.
It’s the look a hip 18-year-old gives you when you ask if he ever heard of “champagne music.”
Pickard is an amateur disc jockey who loves hip hop and funk, and who for the past two years has worked on a UROP project to develop a DJ Robot, which could help real disc jockeys by making it possible for them to program up to 128 turntables at once.
“We’re actually creating art,” says Pickard. “We could have a massive symphony orchestra of turntables controlled by a single computer. The idea is we could create music like it’s never been created before.”
Led by Asst. Prof. Chris Csikszentmihalyi of the Media Lab, the research team wrote the software, 10,000 lines of code, which runs on a laptop computer connected to three turntables with high-precision motors. The robot might one day replace human DJs by making it possible to play pre-programmed sets up to 50 minutes long.
“What I love about UROP, is I’ve never gotten the sense that I’m just a student. I’m not here just to write code, I’m actually involved in making design decisions,” Pickard says, adding that although he is an undergraduate, he is treated like a professional.
“UROP has taught me teamwork,” he says. “Sharing the creative process with others changed me. I’d never written code with a group before, but working alone you miss things. You definitely get a better result when you bounce ideas off others.“
Pickard, who along with his colleagues demonstrated the robot in cities across the world, says: “Having multiple people with multiple sets of eyes is necessary to making a huge project work. I see now how we’re all interconnected. I’ve learned that you can do a big project alone, but not nearly so well. “