The University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) has ‘scaled’ new heights by playing a ‘key’ role in a new world record for the number of people playing the same piano — at the same time.
On 19 August, at the opening ceremony of the 69th CIRP (the International Academy for Production Engineering) General Assembly in Birmingham, 88 school-children played a newly commissioned piece of music composed and conducted by pianist Martin Riley — smashing the previous world record of 21.
The ‘88 Pianists’ project was launched in 2018, with young engineers from around the country asked to figure out a way of fitting 88 people around a piano by designing mechanical extendable fingers that could be operated from 7m away and allow them to each play a separate note.
In total 2,500 designs were submitted, of which 88 were shortlisted.
The AMRC (www.amrc.co.uk
) worked with three local schools with engineers initially introducing the youngsters to the project, then helping them with their designs before finally turning the designs into ‘real-life extendable fingers’.
Senior technical fellow Erdem Ozturk, who led the AMRC’s involvement in the project, said: “We selected three teams to go into the three schools, each with two engineers and one musician.
"We collected the children’s designs and then the steering committee, along with 50 engineers and musicians, selected the 88 designs that would then be manufactured.
"Engineers at the AMRC helped build the prototypes and then returned to the schools to receive some more input from pupils.
“I have been so impressed with the students, they were excited about the challenge and keen to find original solutions.
The main aim was not the breaking of the world record but to inspire future generations to use their creativity to solve this challenge.”
‘88 Pianists’ is the brainchild of Julian Allwood, Professor of Engineering and the Environment at the University of Cambridge, who wanted to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of inventor, engineer and artist Leonardo da Vinci by answering a simple question: “Has the smartphone killed invention?”
He said: “I am really captivated by the opportunity that this project has revealed to explore the space for expansive imagination between the creative arts and technology. The reaction from the audience was overwhelming.
"To my surprise, the statement I heard most often from what I thought were my hard-headed academic colleagues was that they were moved to tears.”