Halo Harp: an Open Source Project for Schools


The Halo Harp project comprises the construction of a unique interactive laser based musical instrument exhibit. This is a Laser Harp which uses a circular ring containing 8-16 eye safe red laser pointers with photodiode detectors to monitor “plucking” of laser “strings”. Unlike traditional laser harps, it employs the novel concept of crossed laser beams, permitting great versatility for configuring output sounds, via an on-board Raspberry Pi microcontroller to synthesise sound. A prototype harp has been constructed (footage viewable at as part of International Year of Light (IYOL) 2015. A second harp is currently being built, funded by Institute of Physics Scotland, which will be located in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. The harp will be a permanent exhibit for general display as part of the museum’s new Science & Technology Gallery, due to open 2016. This will immensely broaden the audience who will be able to interact with the exhibit (the museum attracts over 1.6 million visits per annum).

The harp is also available as an open source project to allow schools to engage with the different subject areas including;

Physics: how lasers can be used with photodiodes as on/off sensors or strings

Engineering: Mechanical design of the harp structure

Design & Technology: Fabrication of the harp in wood or an alternative material

Art: utilising the possibility to pluck strings and play “colours”

Music: composition on the harp and studying the different musical tunings available

Computing Science: using a Raspberry Pi microcontroller to interface with the harp strings and sound system


For further information please contact:

Giles Hammond

Institute for Gravitational Research

School of Physics and Astronomy

University of Glasgow

Glasgow, g12 8QQ


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