Dr. Frequency’s Astounding Sounds
Dr. Frequency's Astounding Sounds under construction at the Lincoln Children's Museum, Tuesday, May 25, 2010. The new exhibit that opens Thursday lets children interact and play with sound while learning science. (WILLIAM LAUER / Lincoln Journal Star)

The new Lincoln Children's Museum exhibit is bound to make quite a ruckus.

Which is exactly what "Dr. Frequency" and his Lincoln inventors -- Ryan Gross and Evan Killeen -- are hoping for with Thursday night's unveiling of Dr. Frequency's Astounding Sounds.

Gross is operations manager at the museum, and Killeen is deputy director.

The exhibit introduces children and adults to the science of sound waves and frequencies by encouraging them to make noise, whether it's smacking the pipes of a wall organ, plunking the 4-foot-tall keys of a giant piano or banging on a line of various-sized metal bowls.

The fictitious Dr. Frequency is a world-famous sound scientist and world traveler who collects different sounds, music and noises for his Sound Laboratory.

Dr. Frequency is a cross between Albert Einstein, Indiana Jones and a menagerie of mad scientist cartoon characters, Gross said.

Although kids won't find Dr. Frequency in the lab -- he's on a scientific expedition -- visitors are encouraged to slip on white lab coats and carry on his sound research, Killeen said.

"It's no secret that children are growing up with unprecedented access to music and audio communications," said museum Executive Director Darren Macfee.

"With Dr. Frequency's Astounding Sounds, the goal is to enable children to learn about how sound actually works by providing them with fun experiments and peculiar instruments that demonstrate the science behind the sound."

Gross and Killeen came up with the idea in December and have worked tirelessly to study various instruments, learn the history of sound science discoveries and create an appealing storyline and character kids could get into.

"We brainstormed what kids like," Killeen said. "Sound and noise are things they like -- and things their parents don't want them to do at home."

A grant from the Lancaster County Visitor Improvement Fund, administered through the Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau, provided money to create the exhibit.

Local businesses like Bedient Pipe Organ Co. have been instrumental in tuning Dr. Frequency's unusual instruments, thus preventing complete cacophony and helping kids understand why certain sounds are different.

Dr. Frequency's Astounding Sounds laboratory has 10 different interactive experiments:

* A sound booth. Kids mix and put together lyrics and music of a Dr. Frequency song created for the museum by Littleague, a popular children's hip-hop group out of Denver.

* Air drums. Created for the museum by John Folaron of Milwaukee, the Air Head Air Drum plays 12 instruments and sounds. Kids control speed and frequency by moving their hands past a vertical sensor.

* Giant piano. With multicolored keys, the piano is 6 feet tall and 16 feet long, turning "chopsticks" into a workout.

* Theremin. This instrument requires no physical contact; sounds are based on radio frequencies emitted from organic matter -- such as the human body.

* Tongue drums. The exhibit features two types, one made of wood and the other made from a metal tank.

* Wall organ. This simple version of a classic pipe organ is made from lengths of colorful PVC pipe.

"We had to figure the speed of sound in Lincoln, Nebraska, then cut the piping to a certain length based on the speed of sound," Killeen said.

* Bowl beats. A line of metal bowls that make different sounds based on size and where they're hit with a mallet.

* Giant marimba. Kids make music by hitting Brazilian cherrywood keys.

* Chimes. Four sets of chimes encourage kids to listen for the differences between hollow and solid wooden and metal chimes.

* Seeing sound. Grains of sand atop an 18-inch subwoofer let children see how various sounds move the sand in different patterns.

* S.H.U.S.H. A machine resembling a giant computer features lights and buttons that allow visitors to make all sorts of weird noises.

Dr. Frequency's Astounding Sounds Lab will be on display at the children's museum through Sept. 5.

Reach Erin Andersen at 402-473-7217 or eandersen@journalstar.com.

Audio slideshow: Dr. Frequency's Astounding Sounds



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