James’ help is music to Jenny’s ears

It has hi-tech accelerometers, complex hardware and specially written coding to beat the band — but it’s all music to their ears.

Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) engineering graduate James Fogarty has developed a tailor-made “assistive system” to help Jenny Garde, who has cerebral palsy, realise her dream of making music.

James, 23, a biomedical engineer from Co Waterford, who graduated from CIT last month, spent the last year of his course working with Jenny as part of Music Generation Cork City’s SoundOUT proramme — the inclusive music education programme run in several schools across the city.

“It was something I was very passionate about,” James said.

“I come from a musical background and was until recently, in a band with my two brothers.

“Jenny loves music too. She was very musical but couldn’t express it because of her condition.”

He spent months working closely with her, assessing her physical abilities to devise a system that could adapt to and use her movement to create music.

He has developed a wrist strap and a head band with in-built accelerometers which have been adapted to pick up on her movements.

Those movements are then converted through automation software in to electronic signals which are passed to a module which plays a sound through a laptop.

Jenny can select a guitar or piano sound and can even change the key of the tune so that she can play along with other instruments.

“It was a lot of work, with a lot of testing and validating over the months but it was just great to help someone who couldn’t create music create it,” James said.

While he is due to start work in Abbott Vascular in Clonmel in a few weeks, he plans to continue developing the system, which can be adapted for other uses.

His project was highly commended in the engineering and mechanical sciences category of the Undergraduate Awards 2014, and was ranked in the top 10% of submissions to the 2014 programme, which received 4,792 submissions from undergraduate students around the world.


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