Senior Dakota Stipp combined his interests in computer science and music into a project that uses arm movements to change sounds and wrote a piece of music to be performed with it.
“The idea is to build a piece of software that takes that information [from the gestures] and maps it in a useful and intuitive way to control elements of music,” Stipp said.
Senior research gives students an opportunity to connect their learning from their previous years in college and can also give them a starting point for the future.
Stipp found inspiration from similar projects using more expensive data gloves. These projects are largely happening in the U.K., including one led by pop singer Imogen Heap. He also wanted to combine the two different disciplines.
“What I find the most interesting about computer science is that we solve other people’s problems, it’s kind of the point of the discipline,” he said.
For other students, the inspiration came from personal experiences or campus jobs.
Senior Marilyn Barnes took a while to narrow down her research focus. After working with an after-school program in Galesburg, she knew she wanted to focus her research on the community outside of Knox. At first she was leaning towards focusing on gangs based on some of her experiences living in Chicago but it can be a difficult topic to get people to talk about.
“So then I reevaluated what I wanted to do and I was like, ‘Okay, well maybe I’ll look for youth in someway’ and I still didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do at that point,” Barnes said.
Eventually she focused on a youth mentorship program run by the YMCA at the Galesburg middle and high schools and looked at how the relationship affected youth aspirations.
Senior Elisabeth Zarnoti focused on the recruitment strategies used by liberal arts schools after working at the Office of Communications since her freshman year. In the summer of 2016, she did a dual internship with the Office of Communications and the Admission Office which led into her research.
Given the variety of fields, research methods varied among the students. Zarnoti used interviews with five liberal arts schools after originally contacting 25 while Stipp’s reserach included reading about the similar projects and writing his code and performance piece.
“I was asking them questions about who are they looking for in their target audience, or who are they looking for for students they want to have at their school,” Zarnoti said.
Barnes used a technique called coding taught to her by Assistant Professor of Anthropology Teresa Gonzales. Coding groups interview notes into various themes to help researchers see how common trends are across sources.
As an Anthropology and Sociology major, Barnes was required to do a senior research capstone project. After taking a class on research methods, seniors then grouped by topics and work with those groups and a professor during the course of their research. Gonzales leads the group Barnes was in, and said that she had noticed more students taking an interest in Galesburg beyond Knox.
“I’ve noticed the stigma of Knox is here in Galesburg but Knox and Galesburg sometimes aren’t always the same,” Barnes explained.
Senior Ian Tully did his project on “Richard III” by Shakespeare. He worked on the set design, played Richard III in the Knox production and wrote a paper on the play. His research consisted mainly of primary source analysis and reading literary criticism of the play.
“As a 400 year-old Shakespeare play, there’s a wide range of studies that people have done, so I kinda picked some that seemed more relevant, had personal interest for me,” Tully said.
Research has provided the students a way to prepare for future plans. Both Barnes and Zarnoti plan to join Americorps. Barnes will work with City Year working with ‘at-risk’ high school students in Chicago while Zarnoti will work with College Possible to help high school students apply to college.
“Essentially I’m gonna kinda be doing a lot of similar work that the program I did my research with is doing,” Barnes said.
Stipp will be attending Yale’s MFA program for theatre so is not sure if he will have the chance to apply his research. He hopes others will use it though as he plans to release the software, which uses the Myo armband, open-source.
Tully, too, is uncertain if he will use the project in his future but values the experience.
“It’s been hugely developing for me as an aspiring theatre artist. It’s really pushed me Winter Term. The scenic design and the performance really pushed me to my capacity, in a way for me to test my limits,” Tully said.