We’ve Got the Blues(-a-tron)!


At the age of 14, Cameron Riggs invented the Blues-o-tron—a musical device used to teach blues, jazz and rock scales to children—in his bedroom.

Combining microcontrollers and music, the original Blues-o-tron design employed a single ultrasonic sensor that detected the distance of a person’s hand from the unit and played a melody that was programmed into an Arduino microcontroller. The melody’s pitch varied in accordance with the hand’s location—the farther the distance, the higher the pitch.

Cameron Riggs - Blues-o-tron Electronic Music Workstation

A Boy Scout since the age of six, Cameron decided to expand his prototype and use it to attain the Eagle Scout Rank, the highest rank attainable in Boy Scouting. In order to achieve an Eagle Scout Rank, a Scout must complete an Eagle Scout Service Project—a service project requiring perseverance, prior planning and the coordination of a team’s efforts in the project’s construction. Additionally, an Eagle Scout Service Project must benefit a nonprofit organization—and that’s where Thinkery comes in!

Cameron Riggs - Blues-o-tron construction

Now, 17-year-old Cameron is giving Thinkery an expanded Blues-o-tron prototype that he calls an Electronic Music Workstation. The new-and-improved Blues-o-tron uses three ping sensors and four Arduino microcontrollers for a more advanced musical experience. At the press of a button, the unit plays a pre-recorded blues, jazz or rock track composed by Cameron. As you move your hand up and down over a sensor, the Blues-o-tron automatically skips over wrong notes so that every pitch “played” matches the key and the genre of music. Rock on!

See Cameron’s invention (and donation) in action Wednesday, June 1 from 5–6 pm during our weekly Community Night. Community Night, part of Thinkery’s Open Door Initiative, is an opportunity for families to discover new ideas and learn together. Admission to the museum from 4–8 pm is by donation, meaning families are able to pay what they can to explore everything Thinkery has to offer.

Cameron’s live demonstration will be the Blues-o-tron’s official Thinkery debut, but look for it in upcoming Think Labs, special events and educational outreach endeavors. We’ll see you Wednesday!

Cameron Riggs - Blues-o-tron Eagle Project


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