Pan Pipes

groverGet your Grover on with these simple pan pipes necklaces! I designed them for a large-scale Lightning Thief event (you can read more about the event, and our awesome Mythomagic deck here). The pipes were part of a “Pan Pipes & Pythagoras” table hosted by Music Together Princeton Lab School. Since we needed to create several hundred sets of pan pipes (event attendance was around 5,000) I needed something inexpensive that would give kids a little taste of tone and pitch.

I considered PVC pipe, empty marker tubes, empty pen tubes…but they were either too expensive, impractical, too hard to cut, couldn’t produce a satisfactory sound, or required way too much prep time. Happily, the solution came when I stopped by Fruity Yogurt, a local frozen yogurt place. In addition to soft serve, Fruity Yogurt does bubble tea, which naturally comes with a bubble tea straw.

strawsBubble tea straws are thicker than your average drinking straw. I tested a few and they were perfect! Not to mention inexpensive and they come in jolly colors!

You’ll need:

  • At least 4 bubble tea straws
  • A small craft stick (for a 4-straw set of pipes, you’ll need a 3″ craft stick)
  • A 28-29″ piece of yarn
  • A ruler
  • A Sharpie permanent marker
  • Scissors and tape for construction

Start by folding the bottom of each straw up and taping it very tightly (some bubble tea straws have pointed bottoms – you can trim the point off if you’d like).

taped straw Place the folded straw next to a ruler, and use a permanent marker to mark the desired  length of the straw. I cut my straws in 0.5″ increments. So the first straw was 5″, the second straw was 4.5″, the third straw was 4″, and the fourth straw was 3.5″.

marked straw I did some experimenting with how long or how short a straw can be before it starts losing its tone. Based on my experiments, I wouldn’t go any longer than 7.5″ and no shorter than 2.5″. Beyond those lengths, the straws seem to lose their ability to hold a note.

Next, knot the yarn on both ends of the craft stick, and reinforce the knots with tape.

attached yarnLine all your straws next to each other in ascending order. Make sure the top (i.e. the open ends) of the straws are even with one another. Secure them with a piece of tape.

taped pipesThen flip the pipes over and tape the craft stick on the other side! Done!

finished pipes

Mythomagic

mythomagicFancy a game half-blood?

In 2011, the Cotsen Library hosted a large-scale event called Princyclopedia. The whole event was based on The Lightning Thief series by Rick Riordan (Disney-Hyperion 2006). We had tables featuring art, architecture, science, engineering, nature, dyslexia, ADHD, myths, the Greek language, and the Socratic Method. We had a professional harpist, Greek hoplites in full battle armor, and blue chocolate chip cookies. We had giant live snakes (Medusa’s lair), Minotaur rides (an inflatable mechanical bull woo hoo!), and a 1,400 lb. ice sculpture carved to look like a temple in honor of Poseidon.

In addition to these activities (and a few more – check out the 2-page event map!) we wanted to bring the game Mythomagic to life.

From the start, we knew there was no way we could develop something as detailed as Nico’s version in the books. Because the event was going to be crowded (5,000 people attended) we didn’t want a game that would run too long. Finally, since a wide range of children would be attending the event (ages 4 -14) so we needed something that could be understood quickly and easily.

After some research, we decided to base our version on War, a card game that moves quickly, is based on winning via hierarchy, and can be played with multiple kids at once. In addition to the traditional labeling of the face cards (Ace, King, Queen, Jack…) and suits (Hearts, Clubs, Spades, Diamonds) we added our own Greek labels and suits.

three cardsThe artwork for the cards was created by  April Lee, a talented Princeton University student. Using art direction from Greek myths and the book series, she also added her own funky manga twist!

three more cards

Here’s a quick breakdown of the 32 cards in the deck. We made it smaller than a standard deck to keep the production costs down, and we kept the same characters on all the number cards to avoid asking April to make 12 more drawings on top of the original 20 drawings, plus the 4 suit borders, plus the design on the back of the card,  PLUS keeping up with her rigorous academic schedule!

Fire Suit:

  • Ace: Kronos
  • King: Apollo
  • Queen: Artemis
  • Jack: Achilles

Air Suit:

  • Ace: Ouranus
  • King: Zeus
  • Queen: Hera
  • Jack: Hercules

Water Suit:

  • Ace: Oceanus
  • King: Poseidon
  • Queen: Amphitrite
  • Jack: Theseus

Earth Suit:

  • Ace: Gaea
  • King: Hades
  • Queen: Persephone
  • Jack: Jason

Number cards (4 in each suit):

  • 5: Ladon
  • 4: Aegis
  • 3: Cerberus
  • 2: Ophiotaurus

We had the cards professionally printed, and – this really made the deck awesome – had the edges rounded like real playing cards. The results were fantastic. Best of all, the game lives on. I’ve brought Mythomagic out at a number of events and programs since. It’s always a hit.

A final shout out goes to the Princeton Public Library, who hosted the Mythomagic table at the event, playing it for 5 straight hours with the crowds. My hat (or helmet rather) is off to you!

princeton public library