Children from schools across the UK smashed a piano-playing world record this week, with the help of engineers from the University of Bath.
Breaking the record for the number of people playing one piano at the same time, the 88 Pianists project saw children aged between 6 and 14 come together to play a specially-composed piece of music using a variety of strange and wonderful mechanical ‘fingers’ of their own design.
The Heath Robinson-like mechanisms ranged from flying rabbits, ballerinas, giraffes and even pooping unicorns and were built with the help of engineers from Bath and nine other UK universities.
The project was devised by engineers from the University of Cambridge, who decided to surpass the existing record of 21 players in a way that could not be beaten – by having 88 players using one key each. In order for that many people to reach the piano, they needed inventions which would allow each player to reach their piano key from 7 metres away.
Teams from universities across the UK worked with primary schools to design the mechanisms. From 2,500 submissions, 88 inventions were selected and built by the engineers alongside the school children. On Monday, the full project team came together to play a piece of music specially composed for the occasion at the Birmingham ICC.
The official world record attempt was judged and deemed successful by composer Julian Lloyd Webber.
Evros Loukaides, who led the project for the university, said: “It has been a privilege to coordinate Bath's contribution to the ambitious 88 Pianists project and to work with a talented team of volunteers from the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
“Aside from the record-breaking performance, the legacy of this initiative has been secured: a foundation stone laid to bridge the gap between the arts and STEM. As researchers and educators, we have been afforded the precious opportunity to be inspired and challenged by enquiring and creative young minds.”
Fulvio Pinto, a lecturer in mechanical engineering, added: “I will never forget the expression of awe and wonder in the eyes of the children of Stanton Drew Primary School when we transformed their design into a real piece of engineering.
“Their passion and creativity reminded me why I have always wanted to be an engineer and I hope the 88 Pianists project will inspire them to become the engineers of tomorrow.”
The Bath team worked with six schools to build a total of eight of the mechanical fingers: Stanton Drew Primary School; Trinity Church School; Hullavington Primary and Nursery School; Cookham Dean CE Primary; and Grove Primary, Trowbridge.
You can watch the official film of the performance below.