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The highest-tech band in the land

January 21, 2014

The Ohio State Marching Band is going green by using iPads to learn halftime patterns and music--and saving some money in the process.


Ryan Barta and Charlie King have a lot of scarlet and gray spirit: Barta plays trumpet and King has played trumpet for Ohio State's marching band.

Recently, the bandmates teamed up to add some green to that mix. They've created, planned and executed a program that puts the band's routines on iPads--a move that's cut down on paper copies and could save the band as much as $24,000 a year.

Barta and King noticed that a massive amount of paper was used to print each week’s drills; 225 band members each got an 80-page packet of the week’s work. Changes to the drill meant new printouts.

“We thought, there has to be a better way to approach this, to reduce the amount of paper we use every year and become more efficient in the process,” Barta says.

The iPad project took shape when Barta, majoring in Operations and Aviation Management, took a course with Fisher College of Business Prof. Aravind Chandrasekaran. With help from his professor, Barta used his classroom knowledge to come up with a business plan. It was a lesson in business--and a step toward a more sustainable campus.

“Why cut more trees when the same learning process can happen digitally?” Chandrasekaran asks.

Barta worked with King, majoring in Computer and Information Science and History, to successfully pitch the project to the band and Ohio State's Office of Sustainability, which gave the marching band $25,000 to buy 50 iPads for squad leaders, staff and directors to test. That money was matched by the band.

“I had to prove the value to the directors, that this wasn’t just a toy that we wanted because we thought it was cool,” Barta says. “This is an actual business tool.”

The students used Buckeye Box cloud space to store the music and drill patterns while other existing applications brought the components to life, all accessed through the iPads.

The tablets are used during rehearsals--animation shows band members how drills play out--but they still memorize the drills and music for performances.

An unanticipated bonus? Squad leaders started filming practices to provide quick feedback to section members.

“The iPad is so intuitive that students actually started innovating way outside the bounds of what we had envisioned originally,” King says.

Says band director Jon Waters: “This program is revolutionizing how the band operates and performs."