Passion play: Student combines love of music, engineering to great effect

Grove City College student Matt Kauffman ’17, combined his love of music with his pursuit of an electrical engineering degree for an independent study project that really rocks.

“Music has always been my biggest passion outside of my major,” Matt said. “In fact, one of the big reasons why I chose electrical engineering as a major was because of my love for music and audio.”

For the independent study he completed in the spring, Matt, of West Liberty, Ohio, designed and built a tremolo/boost effects pedal that brings up the sound of his guitar gently weeping for solos and makes the good vibrations of his strings even better.

“It’s a little box which I plug my guitar into before my amplifier which creates two effects. The first effect is providing a boost, which essentially is just making my guitar signal ‘louder’ before it gets to the amplifier,” Matt said. “The second effect, and main effect, is the tremolo effect. This is where the volume of the guitar signal is varied up and down with a waveform. This is a classic effect that is probably best known for its inclusion in surf music.”

Matt is a talented multi-instrumentalist. He plays guitar and bass with the College’s jazz ensemble, tenor saxophone for the concert and marching bands, is lead guitarist and singer of a student rock band and also plays at Fellowship Community Church in Grove City. He also plays “a little bit of ukulele, mandolin, piano, and drums” and writes and records his own original music.

“I play and listen to many different types of music. My favorite genre is rock, and all the sub-genres within that. But basically, if it has guitar parts that I find interesting, I will listen to it,” he said.

The pedal project brought together the artist and the technician in Matt. He’s built effect pedals before, but this was the first that he designed himself and built from the ground up. The first part of the work was entirely circuit design, which allowed Mathew to capitalize on his classwork. But what actually worked depended on his musical ear.

“I eliminated a portion of my circuit when I determined it wasn’t a very musical or useful sound,” he said.

Matt’s project dovetails with his post-graduation plans. “My dream job would be working somewhere in the audio equipment industry, but even if I don’t end up doing that, I still plan on doing effects pedal design on the side. In fact, I have plans for starting my own effects pedal company this summer to sell my designs,” he said.

Dr. Tim Mohr, professor of electrical and computer engineering, oversaw the work.

“Matt did the whole project himself, from studying background literature, on to circuit design and testing, developing a prototype, designing a printed circuit board using CAD software and finally assembling and troubleshooting the final product. He even integrated his own new idea – the double tremolo effect,” Mohr said.

“Independent study projects are a great way for students to get creative with the skills they have learned in other classes and make something that truly fits their personal interests,” Mohr said.

For more on the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, click HERE.

Passion play: Student combines love of music, engineering to great effect

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