© Hochschule Augsburg

Panpipes with a joystick

Students have developed an electronically controlled instrument for therapeutic purposes.

The Fritz-Felsenstein house in Augsburg provides all sorts of help for around 300 physically challenged children and adults. The aim of the inter-disciplinary concept is to enable each individual to lead a self-determined life. Music therapy has an important role to play in this. It helps the participants to express themselves and stimulates learning processes.

For a little while now, the sound of a unique instrument has been filling the rooms of the Fritz-Felsenstein house: electronically controlled panpipes that can also be played by the physically challenged. “Peter Pan’s Flute”, as the instrument was christened, was a project developed by students training to be mechatronics engineers at Augsburg University. The part normally played by pursed lips is taken over by a fan from ebm-papst in this case.

Short Facts about the project


The Fritz-Felsenstein house deals with all sorts of different physical challenges. “Peter Pan’s Flute” is accordingly provided with a flexible control system. A joystick, tracking ball or mouse can easily be connected up via USB. Inputs are directly transmitted to the slide and blower to control movement and the flow of air.


To simulate “real” flute playing as accurately as possible, the students decided against having a separate valve to actuate each pipe of the instrument. Instead, the panpipes move along the artificial lips of “Peter Pan’s Flute” on a slide. So the person playing the instrument can vary the tone as required.

Tone Generation

DThe students considered various ways of producing the tones. Ultimately they came to the conclusion that an authentic result could best be obtained by using a blower. Alongside the pressure required (roughly 30 millibar), the most important selection criterion for the blower was a low noise level. The CPAP centrifugal blower from ebm-papst, originally developed for respiration devices, satisfied both requirements.


Peter Pan’s Flute at the iENA – fair Nürnberg:

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Axial compact fans

High air performance with moderate pressure build-up