EarSketch Team Receives $2.1 Million Grant to Add AI ‘Co-Creative’ To Platform

Posted September 26, 2018

By Michael Pearson

The National Science Foundation has awarded a team led by Brian Magerko of the School of Literature, Media, and Communication a four-year $2.1 million grant to explore adding an AI assistant to the award-winning EarSketch computer science, music, and technology learning platform.

The assistant would act as a creative collaborator with students using the music-based learning platform, helping them create in new ways and discover new techniques, said Magerko, an LMC professor who co-founded EarSketch in 2011 with Jason Freeman, a professor in the Georgia Institute of Technology's School of Music who also is co-principal investigator on the most recent grant.

“We’re thinking about a resource that you can tap on the shoulder, a buddy that knows a bit more than you do that you can call on,” Magerko said. “You can imagine writing a piece of code that creates a chorus. You tap on the AI, and it says, ‘That’s so sweet! I’m going to use that.”

The proposed EarSketch assistant would provide users with help in an environment where “aesthetics and technical questions go hand-in-hand in the curriculum and course projects,” Magerko said.

Georgia Tech and University of Florida to Collaborate on Research

Magerko is partnering with a team from the University of Florida, which received a related $862,472 NSF grant for its part of the research. The Florida team will be studying how high school students would use such an agent, while Magerko and his team will work on the technical underpinnings of the artificial intelligence agent.

Although some work has begun already, the bulk of the research study will begin in fall 2019, Magerko said.

EarSketch has been used by 265,000 youth and educators in 100 countries to help teach computer science, music, and technology skills to students, particularly minorities and girls who are often underserved by Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) programs.

Magerko, EarSketch, Also Named in Second Grant

The grant is one of two recently announced involving Magerko and EarSketch. The second grant, also from the National Science Foundation, is for a project spearheaded by Northwestern University that seeks to expand participation in computer science programs by way of music, dance and writing code.

That $999,865 grant goes mostly to Northwestern University, Magerko said. The Georgia Tech portion entails incorporating EarSketch into digital notebooks that combine programming code, music, video, lyrics, and other digital creations. Magerko is co-investigator on that project. Michael Horn of Northwestern University is the lead researcher.

The School of Literature, Media, and Communication is a unit of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.­­­­­­

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Students using Earsketch to create their own music by programming.

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