Ten universities collaborate to smash bizarre world record

SOURCE: Matthew T Rader/Unsplash
Students were asked to dream up devices that would allow all 88 participants – one for each key – reach the piano.

By U2B Staff 

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Engineers from ten UK universities collaborated with local primary school children to brake one of the more obscure and bizarre world records out there – the highest number of pianists playing the same piano.

The project was set up by Professor Julian Allwood at the University of Cambridge Department of Engineering, in collaboration with engineers and musicians from universities across the UK. Students were asked to dream up devices that would allow all 88 participants – one for each key – reach the piano. The project was called, unsurprisingly, eighty-eight pianists.

Other universities taking part included the University of Liverpool, University of Sheffield, University of Bath, University of Manchester, University of Nottingham, Cranfield University, University of Bristol, University of Birmingham, and Birmingham City University.

It was set up to mark 500 years since renowned inventor and engineer Leonardo da Vinci’s death. Supporters thought it was a fitting tribute to the great man to break a world record using those same skills da Vinci himself excelled in.

Just as Da Vinci did, participants sought to fuse the world of engineering and art, using their technical skills to produce music.

The eighty-eight “players” came from primary schools from across the UK and were the creative force behind the innovative solutions that broke the record.


Performing on stage in Birmingham on Tuesday, the pupils were there to claim their crown and show off their inventions. They included creative ideas such as The Flying Rabbit: a design that was modified to involve a fake rabbit being launched at the lowest note of the piano.

Others include the Pizza Racket, involving a ball being hit as someone eats a slice; the Ultra Awesome Toothbrush, which uses a windmill to push a giant toothbrush onto the piano; and the Let It Shine, a lever at the back of a rainbow tree that takes two seconds to press the piano key.

Each of the 88 devices were devised by a primary school class, and refined and made into working machines with the help of the university engineering faculty.

“88 Pianists has been a fascinating project to be part of. It has provided a practical but fun opportunity to introduce school pupils to some of the concepts of design and engineering including solving logistical problems such as working out how to fix all of the 88 fingers to the piano,” Liverpool engineer, Dr Kate Black, said.

“One of the aims of the project was to inspire the next generation of engineers and It was particularly pleasing to show that in a very digital world we can still make and invent things physically and show children still have creative minds.”