Pitch Shifting Audio Sampling Instrument; The Ethics of True Environmental Sustainability in Engineering

Scotti, Frederick, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
JACQUES, RICHARD, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Powell, Harry, EN-Elec & Comp Engr Dept, University of Virginia

In my group’s capstone project, we designed and built a musical instrument called “The Samplisizer”. The name is a portmanteau of sampler and synthesizer. The Samplisizer, as the name suggests, is a combined audio sampler and synthesizer. It allows users to record any audio with a microphone and play it back at the corresponding pitch on a keyboard. The Samplisizer is MIDI compatible meaning that any MIDI controller can be plugged into the device to control the audio output. Our group was composed of musicians and fans of sampled music, which was our primary motivation for this project. My STS research paper is about sustainable engineering. I chose this topic because I am very passionate about environmentalism and green activism.
Project Summaries
In my technical capstone, we wanted to create an instrument that could sound like anything. In order to actualize this, we determined that the best way to do this was by allowing users to use a microphone to record audio. The Samplisizer contains a RaspberryPi that would then run the PSOLA algorithm on the raw audio to create a set of pitch shifted copies of the original audio. Then, when the Samplisizer receives an input from the MIDI controller, it will play the corresponding audio out of the speakers. Some distinguishing features of the Samplisizer are the modularity of the design as well as the ability to play multiple samples at the same time.
My STS paper explored what true sustainability in what engineering looks like. I provide a more rigorous definition of sustainability and show that essentially nothing that is commonly considered ecofriendly is truly sustainable. I then explore specific examples of sustainable technology and their short comings by this new definition of sustainability with a specific emphasis on E-waste recycling. I chose to do this because of its relevance to electrical engineering. Finally, I discuss greenwashing and how it has negatively contributed to our current view of sustainability.
My capstone project was a great opportunity to use the skills I learned in my time in undergrad to design something with limited guidance. It gave a broad range of technical challenges including PCB design, digital signal processing, communication protocol, and operating systems. Additionally, it provided a glimpse into collaborating in a team setting where each member can leverage their own strengths. I gained a greater understanding for what it takes to turn an idea into an actualized design. Through my technical thesis, I obtained a deeper appreciation for the ethical challenges within engineering and how to apply these more broadly in my day-to-day life.
I’d like to acknowledge my STS advisor and professor, Professor Richard Jacques, my capstone advisor, Professor Harry Powell, and my capstone team members: Lucia Hoerr, Quinn Ferguson, and Cooper Grace.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Sustainability, Environmentalism, Sustainable technology

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Harry Powell
STS Advisor: Richard Jacques
Technical Team Members: Lucia Hoerr, Cooper Grace, Quinn Ferguson

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