Music Wheel

A rotating electronic music box.

Haorui Li, Liyang Zhu


It is common for music boxes to be powered by spiral springs while the plectrums make the sound. However, we are thinking of the possibility of combining the idea of the music box with the electromagnetics we learned in our course – Working with Electrons. Our project is basically an electronic music box that rotates like a sky wheel. As a result, we named it “Music Wheel”.

This project requires a comprehensive understanding of the motors (especially the stepper motors which we are using in this project), NE555 timer, operations on Arduino, PCB design, and also basic circuit operations. To make a speaker produce sounds, one of the ways is to use a NE555 oscillating circuit. In order to make multiple frequencies of sounds, we decide to attach the resistances with different values to the different axles of the wheel. When the wheel rotates, we can switch the resistance connected to the NE555 IC and produce a different sound.

However, the trickiest part of our project, is the stepper motor. Basically, a stepper motor is a kind of motor that can rotate certain steps in response to the electric signal given to it. The advantage of this kind of motor is that it produces almost no noise (compared to brush motor). And to produce such a set of electric signals, we need to use Arduino and ULN2003 IC to make it work – a challenging work.

Lastly, as an art piece, it also takes us a lot of time working on the delicate design of the wooden structure of our wheel. We have looked through some of the world’s most famous sky wheels and learn from their grant but well-organized design.

Student information: Tom Zhu (, Harry Lee (

IMA/IMB Shanghai
Working with electrons