© 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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