The Tin Pot analog synthesizer is plenty of fun for both musicians and non-musicians as it creates a classic synth sound that’s found in pop culture dating back to the 80s. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Stranger synths: Camosun students sign off with sounds

Capstone projects feature chess-playing arm, eighties-sounding synth

It’s a synthesizer that makes the weirdest, the coolest, and the strangest of retro sounds.

But the Tin Pot analog synth, a project by three Camosun College technology grads, is not for sale.

The Tin Pot synth greeted visitors to the exhibition of capstone projects at Camosun’s new Babcock Interaction lab at the Interurban campus to the theme song of Netflix’s hit retro-eighties series, Stranger Things.

Students exhibited their capstone team projects from Camosun’s Electronics and Computer Engineering Technology program.

There was also a motion synthesizer that creates sound effects based on movements and the regal pang of a hydraulic piston banging against a church chime (a project meant to resurrect the chimes of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, which haven’t chimed since 1965). And there were other items, such as a robot arm that plays chess and a hands free lawnmower.

For Nick Fletcher, who gets to keep the Tin Pot synth, the capstone project was a chance to follow one his passions, the synthesizer. The Tin Pot analog synth he created with partners Ian Johnson and Tom Kizuk can plug into a keyboard and produce a sound spot on to that of Stranger Things, and other retro 80s music that has grown popular again.

“It’s an analog synthesizer based on the classic Moog filters, low frequency oscillators and wave forms,” Fletcher said. “You can make weird synthesizer sounds with it, but it has really great sound to it and it has midi control.”

The prototype is a good looking machine that boasts a single octave keyboard which uses the same arcade game video buttons that tell Pac Man when to chomp a ghost.

The capstone project is the culmination of three years at Camosun for the students, who put what they’ve learned into a single product. Some groups come up with their own idea, while others partner with community and business groups to create innovative products and solutions.

“The students gain valuable, applied career experience, while our business partners gain solutions to specific problems they’ve identified,” said program chair Alan Duncan.

Across the room from the Tin Pot was the Chess Bot, a robotic, chess-playing arm guided by chess engine with enough artificial intelligence to defeat any human.

While Chess Bot creators Christopher Martin-Rebneris, Sol Morris-Janzen and Yi Peng still have to enter each opposing move into the Chess Bot’s virtual map of the board, the goal is to add a camera on the arm, and additional software, so the robot can see what the board looks like and play completely on its own.

Many of the Electronics and Computer Engineering Technology grads move into leading-edge tech companies while others enter the engineering bridge program that transfers to UVic.


Ian Johnson plays the Tin Pot analog synthesizer, which produces a classic synth sound that’s found in pop culture dating back to the 80s. Travis Paterson/News Staff

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