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A Musical Design in the MSE Department

Four MSE juniors took on a musically themed design project in the spring semester of 2022. The team of Matthew Valderrama, Charlotte Buchanan, Max Camp, and Chris Webb sought to apply their materials science knowledge to restore a 1907 Beckwith reed organ to playing condition.

The team made this video documentary of the project.

Central to the restoration was the replacement of the rubber cloth used in the bellows to force air through the reeds as the organist pumps the pedals with their feet. Coordinating with Brad Rule, a local builder of organs, and Professor David Keffer, the team performed a meticulous chemical, structural, and mechanical characterization of the rubber cloth and the natural adhesive used to attach the cloth to the organ frame.

The project was a success. Not only did the team achieve a functioning organ by the end of the semester, but in April the team won first place in the Tickle College of Engineering Research category of EURēCA, UT’s Exhibition of Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement, an annual poster event and competition.

The team next submitted the project to the national ASM Undergraduate Design Competition and placed second. Matthew Valderrama and Max Camp, pictured above, attended the 2022 International Materials, Applications & Technologies (IMAT) meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana to accept the award on September 12, 2022.

Read more about the organ restoration project.