The sounds of a successful summer

Middle-school students study urban noise pollution in Tandon's #STEMnow program

middle school students stand by their project

The Sounds of New York City (SONYC) project is aimed at addressing one of New Yorkers’ biggest complaints — noise pollution. This summer middle-school students who took part in NYU Tandon’s #STEMnow program got a chance to work right alongside SONYC researchers to use sensors, microcontrollers, circuits and other real-world tools to gain an understanding of the problem. Over the course of the multi-week initiative, they sampled sounds, studied sound waves in an urban environment, built devices that make and monitor sound, and evaluated how noise pollution ultimately affects human well-being.

On August 9, they mounted a showcase of their final projects, which included, among other creative work:

  • A smart sensor that flashes a graphic warning if the noise level reaches above 80 decibels
  • A 360-degree video that allows users to fully immerse themselves in an urban environment and experience a wide array of sounds
  • A device that enables ultrasonic levitation (with objects hovering in mid-air thanks to the energy in sound waves).

The students each hailed from the five boroughs of the city and were all too familiar with the cacophony of New York, from honking horns and blaring sirens to jackhammers, shouting humans, and cooing pigeons. SONYC gave them a whole new way to listen and consider the sounds that surround them every day, from the perspective of aspiring researchers and scientists.

Students explain their summer project: a sensor that flashes a warning if the noise level reaches above 80 decibels