Yan Godat and Anatole Buttin are passionate about a few things: Music, DIY and programming, and sharing those passions with kids. Their latest work, “Les Boîtes Mécaniques” (“mechanical boxes”) is a combination of all those passions.

The two wanted to create something special out of wood and metal, that would inspire the kids they work with in their electronic music workshops. They themselves were inspired by the small machines of Pierre Bastien. It took 3 months to build and program the boxes using an Arduino. Besides the mechanical elements of the sound these produce — marbles hitting wood, robotic arms drumming against a xylophone — each of the boxes incorporates digital elements for altering the sound. As Anatole explains:

Each box has two small microphones and audio outputs. We can use external audio effects to transform sounds like in the video. There is also an input “Midi” on each box which allows you to compose in a music software and play with the boxes. The boxes also work closed. Children are very surprised at first. This works very well, they learn very quickly to compose music with the wide buttons. The boxes are now in French schools.

You can see more of the musical projects he and Yan have worked on when you go to their site (it’s in French, just fyi) and learn about the program.