Call them the Devo of upcycling…an Illinois music group by the name of Electric Waste Orchestra has been turning old and discarded hardware into new musical instruments. Born out of Makerspace Urbana in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois (135 miles south of Chicago), the group creates fully-functional musical equipment that not only keeps e-waste out of landfills but also creates an entirely new category of music.

In keeping true to the open source nature of makerspaces, the duo behind Electric Waste Orchestra also offer a twice-a-month workshop for makers to create their own e-waste musical instruments from discarded hard drives, video cards, keyboards, and anything else that they can wire up to an Arduino board to make a sound.

The duo also plans on posting the build instructions for free online in hopes that developing countries can use their own discarded e-waste to learn valuable skills while also building their own instruments.

YouTube video

“At 20 years old, some of these things are useless. The hard disk drives I used were all 1 GigaByte disks—[they] can fit on your pinky nail nowadays; no one is going to use these hard drives again, but I thought they were still beautiful objects. Mirrored, high-precision disks (very expensive in their day) are now junk? There must be a way to make new objects with these artifacts!”

-Colten Jackson, Electric Waste Orchestra





You can find out more about EWO over at Makerspace Urabana.


Simon is a Brooklyn-based industrial designer and Managing Editor of EVD Media. When he finds the time to design, his focus is on helping startups develop branding and design solutions to realize their product design vision. In addition to his work at Nike and various other clients, he is the main reason anything gets done at EvD Media. He once wrestled an Alaskan alligator buzzard to the ground with his bare hands… to rescue Josh.