Most high school students never learn much about electronics, and in fact they might find it uninteresting without exploring an exciting application like audio/acoustics. That’s why the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created an elective course on the science of audio that is designed to be fun for students, offering them an opportunity to learn about something in which they’re interested. Audio & Speaker Electronics was originally developed by MIT students and offered through the High School Studies Program (HSSP), a project that offers enrichment courses to 7th-12th grade students through the MIT Educational Studies Program. Now you can take the course online for free from MIT OpenCourseWare. The point of this class is to have a good time building an actual audio-related project while learning the fundamentals of electronics and acoustics. This is one class where you’ll really have something to show for it!
While there is a lot of calibrating that goes into high end speakers, you only need a rudimentary knowledge of sound design to make your own simple speakers. As stated in Popular Mechanics, “At its core a loudspeaker is a surprisingly simple device. The key elements are the drivers, crossovers and the cabinet. The cone or dome drivers are transducers that transform the electrical signal into the physical movement of air (i.e., sound). Crossovers act as an electrical filter to split the signal and direct the portions of the audio-frequency range to the drivers best equipped to handle them. But coaxing rich and beautiful sound out of these elements requires a bit of harmonic alchemy. Every decision you make–from the combination of drivers and crossovers to the material you use to build the cabinet–influences the performance and character of your speakers. Hardcore speaker hobbyists take delight in figuring all this out for themselves, designing and building the crossovers and enclosures from scratch to see what comes out.”
If you find the idea of sound design and electronics appealing, if you enjoy hands-on projects, and if you’d like to build a pair of bookshelf type speakers on a low budget, Audio & Speaker Electronics would be a good elective class to take. You will study the fundamentals of electronics and acoustics, the process of loudspeaker design and construction, the engineering and art involved in music/movie recording and playback, and the design and application of everything from microphones to DACs, amplifiers, and speakers. While the course is free, you will have to purchase all of your materials. You can buy all of the parts separately, or you have another option – buying a pre-designed speaker kit with drivers, crossovers, and cabinets included (as shown below).
Make-Your-Own-Speakers kit includes nearly everything to build a pair of speakers, including: a pair of knock-down cabinets, drivers, ports, and crossover components.
What types of activities and courses have you used as electives? Leave a comment and we may include yours in a future column!