This Month in STEM — Sam Aaron, Founder of Sonic Pi

computer programming project-based learning raspberry pi sonic pi Sep 26, 2022
photo of Sam Aaron at a laptop with lines of code displayed behind him

In September, we celebrate the birthday of computer programmer Sam Aaron. Aaron is a computer scientist from the UK who developed the program Sonic Pi at the University of Cambridge in collaboration with the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

When creating Sonic Pi, Aaron’s goal was to find a way for others to use programming in an exciting, innovative way. In one of his keynote speeches, he explains that computer programming concepts are not necessarily exciting on their own. We need to find ways to make the content naturally intriguing to entice others to learn.

What is Sonic Pi?
When you work with Sonic Pi, a variety of skills are at work. First, you will need a very basic knowledge of music. You will accrue further music knowledge as you continue to work with the program to create your own songs.

Sonic Pi also allows you to learn common programming concepts, such as working with functions, iterations and loops, and conditionals, to name just a few. Rather than learn these individually, you will understand how these instructions work when required in your song’s code. Sonic Pi employs the Ruby programming language, so you can see how all of these instructions work in this particular language.

How can I use Sonic Pi to help me learn to code?
But that’s not all there is to this program. Aaron provides programmers with many resources in Sonic Pi. A helpful tutorial walks you through the program, from the most basic concepts like creating a note, to the more complex ones. He also includes ways for educators to use Sonic Pi to teach their students.

Further, there is the option to code live in Sonic Pi, allowing for plenty of practice and experimentation. Throughout the program, you are reminded that “there are no mistakes" — learning to code takes time and persistence, and mistakes lead to new creations and knowledge.

Head over to our “Play Me a Song” module in the Content Library Jr. You will have the opportunity to code songs like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “Happy Birthday” using Sonic Pi. This module will start with basic concepts in short, easy-to-follow lessons. From there, you can experiment with your new skills to create innovative music!

Check out this video of Sam Aaron’s code in Sonic Pi for some inspiration and to see all of the possibilities that are available when you learn this program!

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