Musical Ice: How to Make an Ice Theremin

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Build a musical ice theremin by programming a micro controller, like a Pico Cricket to respond to resistance generated by the ice melting, or the ice being touched. The Pico Cricket then plays back sounds based on the resistance it reads. This activity requires a micro controller (Pico Cricket). This activity can be made into a two-hour workshop, as long as you prepare the ice ahead of time. No programming experience required. The videos of Paul Doherty, of the Exploratorium, are very helpful in explaining how an ice theremin works. Note: some of the electronics in this activity are outdated, please substitute the Pico Cricket for the MIDI board.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
2 to 4 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
Over $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - adult

Resource Type:


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Micro-controller (Pico Cricket)
  • Large piece of ice, prepared ahead of time
  • Alligator Clip Sensor
  • Something metal to hold the ice: a stand, metal measuring cup, metal rack, or piece of aluminum foil
  • A piece of metal to use as a handle (for example, a metal spoon or short piece of pipe)


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Computing
      • Computer Science
  • Physical Sciences
    • Electricity and Magnetism
      • Electric Charges and Currents
      • Electric Circuits

Informal Categories

  • Computers
  • Electronics
  • Music


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • hear
  • use keyboard
  • use mouse
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Links STEM to other topics of interest such as arts and humanities
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, 0087813