Sound Galaxy

Run on March 25th, 2021 by @matthew.

Sound Galaxy is one of the most effective Hack Club workshops for beginners. It sounds super complicated—you make it rain particles on a website, and the particles are placed according to the sound intensity at various parts of the sound from your microphone—but it's actually super easy, and you can do it as a total beginner to coding in only 30-40 minutes.

In this meeting, Matthew runs the Sound Galaxy workshop for a club full of people who have never written JavaScript before (until this meeting, they had been making projects with Python). About 8 people came to the meeting.

Balancing "magic"

One thing that adds some complexity to running Sound Galaxy is figuring out how to balance "magic" with your club members actually understanding the underlying concepts. Sound Galaxy is full of "magic"—as you run it, you'll quickly find that p5.js (the creative coding library used to build the project), as well as the strange "galaxyManager" file, do a lot of heavy lifting for you.

In moderation, magic can actually be a great thing—at its best, your club members leave your meeting feeling like they did something they didn't know was possible for them to do—but too much magic may accidentally have the opposite effect, leaving your club members feeling lost, confused, and like they didn't actually build anything real. It is possible to cross the line into "too much magic" when running Sound Galaxy if you're not careful. Avoiding this is a matter of how you present the concepts.

What Matthew does right

Broadly, Matthew does a few things to keep the magic in check and run a fun, high-energy meeting:


How to run this meeting

  1. Get started
    1. Wait for people to come in. If possible, have the demo already opened up and running as people come into the meeting. Play music in the background, make conversation with people as they arrive.
    2. Once everyone arrives and the meeting begins, start by introducing the demo and the topic of the meeting.
    3. Set expectations about the "magic" upfront, but be clear that nothing in the workshop is out of reach for anyone, and even if the topic don't immediately make sense, they will begin making sense throughout the course of the workshop.
    4. Have the Sound Galaxy workshop opened on a separate device—it will serve as a "script" for you as you go thorugh it with your club.
  2. Go through the workshop
    1. Start walking your club members through the workshop. The pace at which you go through the workshop will vary for every club. If this is one of your club members' first JavaScript projects, go very slowly, and plan on it taking 40-45 minutes to complete. If your club leaders are a little more experienced, this workshop will take 20-30 minutes to complete.
    2. Stop frequently for questions throughout. In most cases, you should stop and ask for questions after every block of code you write.
  3. Start the hacking section
    1. After you finish the workshop, you should have a little bit of time left in your meeting (usually somewhere between 20-35 minutes). Turn your club members loose and ask them to spend the rest of the meeting making their own hacks of the project. Show them the three demos at the bottom of the workshop for some inspiration.
      • Here, you should also give your club members some motivation. Say something along the lines of "If you don't totally understand how this workshop works, don't worry—now is the time when you will figure it out. Start by changing some of the numbers in the code. Then, go into the galaxyManager file and start changing those numbers. Find out what happens, and find the purpose of each of these numbers. Then, use this newfound knowledge to add your own things."
      • See to to see how Matthew encourages the club members to hack the project, including the galaxyManager functions.
    2. Make yourself available for questions. If you're running the meeting in person, spend this time running around the room and checking in on your club members. Constantly offer to help. Don't sit down—you should be running around the room the entire time. If you're running this meeting online, do the online equivalent: check in with each of your club members constantly.
    3. Play some music in the background to fill the silence.
  4. (Optional) demo projects
    1. If you have time left, pick 2 or 3 people to present their hack to the rest of the club.
  5. Wrap up
    1. Wrap up on a super positive note. Encourage people to keep hacking at home if they didn't finish hacking in the meeting.
    2. Play music and make some final conversation as people start heading out.