Marching Machine

Terracotta Warriors calls for a "marching machine" - a unique percussion instrument that simulates the sound of troops marching.

Below is information on how Mr. Jim Ackerman, Band Director at Pequea Valley Intermediate School (Kinzers, PA) and his students used STEM resources to make their own, very fine marching machine! Here's Jim's story:

"Over summer I was looking for literature for our grade 7/8 band for the upcoming year and found “Terracotta Warriors.” I knew the students would really like it for the low brass melody at the beginning and the active percussion part. Because the score was available online, I noticed the marching machine part and researched what they are and how they work. Remembering we have a strong STEM program, I thought it would be a great idea for the students to create their own. It would be a great way to work across the curriculum. A goal of STEM is to search out real-world applications for the subjects related within the class.

Before school even started I reached out the wood shop teacher, who also teaches STEM, and suggested the idea. I sent him the following links:

Sometime after school started, he assigned 4 students to work on it and figured out what wood was available in the shop to complete the project.

The students took the ideas from the websites and made adjustable 3D mockups on Tinkercad software. With that, they could adjust the dimensions based on what I told them I wanted. Because I like to overdo things, I requested that it be a 2 foot by 3 foot rectangle so it would require two players. The computerized model could be resized and rotated for study at any angle. It looks like this:

With that program, and then knowledge about the size of the ‘marchers’ they could calculate how many they needed to create. Note that the marchers need to be longer/taller than the side rails to that they hang down and make contact with the horizontal surface.

Next was materials. Jokingly I told the STEM teacher that I wanted it made of mahogany. He said they have lots of ‘scraps of wood around and that he would find something suitable. It turns out that they had lots of sapele wood, a durable, dense, and attractive wood related to mahogany. It turns out that sapele is also used in the manufacture of other musical instruments such as guitars and ukuleles. See link.

The available wood was in long strips, so the students glued them (laminated) together and sanded them down to make the side rails. The ‘marchers’ were cut to proper lengths and then drilled using a drill press-and a ‘jig’ to make it more efficient, safe and consistent. When the frame was finished, it was sanded and finished with a base of linseed oil to give a protective sheen. I purchased plastic covered cable from the local hardware store. I provided two rolls of 50 foot clothesline (Ace Hardware) so they would have enough to weave along the short side and long side.

We used some U-bolts to secure the cables. This also gives the opportunity to make adjustments if we pull the cables through again.

As the students were nearing completion, I told them they should sign their work somehow so we would always remember who made it. Of course, they decided to put a wooden badge on the side with their names laser-etched on it!"