Ga. Tech, Pharrell team up on remix opportunity for K-12 students

Along with Amazon, the university and the singer-producer's non-profit are offering a music-driven competition and lesson plans based on coding and racial equity.
By: | January 21, 2021
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Intertwined through the beats and rhythms, there is deep science behind the making of successful music tracks. And that means the potential for the next generation to gain knowledge and get on potential career paths while enjoying a realm they can embrace.

To that end, Georgia Tech, Amazon and Pharrell Williams have launched a music-driven learning experience and competition using EarSketch called “Your Voice is Power” for middle and high school students that are interested in coding and computer science.

More than just a chance to go head-to-head against fellow classmates, the virtual event will provide an opportunity for students to learn coding skills and lessons around racial justice through five modules being offered through this unique collaboration, which includes Pharrell’s non-profit education equity company, YELLOW.

Georgia Tech, Pharrell and Amazon hope the competition, which runs now through June, will attract 100,000 or more students who will be tasked with sharing their voices by providing their own remix of Pharrell’s new single called “Entrepreneur”, which is “a celebration of Black culture.”

The goal is to empower more youth, especially from underserved communities, to gain STEM-based knowledge and hone collaborative and leadership skills for careers in computer science fields. As those jobs become more prevalent in the future, positioning Black students on promising paths will be key.

“This collaboration between YELLOW, Amazon, and Georgia Tech is a celebration of Black creators and change-makers,” said Pharrell. “Teaching kids future-ready skills like coding, especially those kids for whom opportunities like this have not been equally distributed, is how we prepare the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

Added Ryan Redington, VP of Music Industry at Amazon Music, “We’re honored to build further awareness and enlist more artists to join this program that will break down barriers for students from underrepresented communities. The more we support the next generation of artists and creators, the better the future of music will be. We are proud to work alongside Pharrell, a respected, visionary voice in promoting racial justice and helping students achieve long-term success.”

The power behind the music

Students will utilize Georgia Tech’s EarSketch, a “learn-to-code-through-music platform” for the competition, which is being judged by Amazon Music and leaders from the music industry. It is hugely popular with students across the country and the world, not only in fun activities but also in computer science classes. In fact, half a million have jumped on board and used Python or JavaScript to code and form their own music.

The EarSketch platform, which is funded by a number of groups including the National Science Foundation, includes a number of popular titles such as Ciara’s “Set” and “Melanin,” and Common’s “God is Love”.

“We’re teaching for the future,” said Mike McGalliard, CEO of YELLOW. “Georgia Tech’s EarSketch platform is a powerful tool for kids to explore the connection between coding and creativity. In working alongside Amazon to give kids access to platforms like this, we can help them bring their ideas to life.”

Students not only will get the chance to code, loop and create strings in pulling together their remixes, but they also will learn from music industry and Georgia Tech leaders, including: Mike Larson, Pharrell’s audio engineer; Chalece DeLaCoudray, a music technologist and Georgia Tech alum; and Joycelyn Wilson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Hip Hop Studies and Digital Media at Georgia Tech.

Amazon says “winners will be chosen based on the quality of music, complexity and organization of their code, and their inclusion of thoughtful messaging and calls to action about the importance of racial justice.”

School districts interested in having their teachers and students participate in the program, including both the curriculum and competition guidelines, can go to AmazonFutureEngineer.com.