"You can individually adjust each channel. That’s what sets our design apart from everyone else."
Mixing it up
With a patent pending on their international award-winning engineering invention, Sean Wolsey ‘08 of Springville, Utah, and UVU student Jeremy Redd of Orem are now looking into business applications for the device — and it all began as a classroom discussion at UVU.
The journey in creating the project began two years ago in a classroom when alumnus Sean Wolsey ‘08 and UVU student Jeremy Redd discussed the distortions in the tone quality of digital audio recording systems. As they discussed the issue, the pair realized how they could fix the problem and decided to work together in creating a one-of-a-kind mixing board that has more tone control than anything else available on the market.
With the support of the UVU Department of Digital Media, Wolsey and Redd began working on the framework of the design in fall 2006. "At the end of the semester we were drawing out schematics and making calculations," Wolsey said. "Mike Wisland, our instructor, could see we were serious about it and he asked us if we wanted to make it into a class."
Wisland set up an independent study class for Wolsey and Redd to provide them with the time and resources needed to focus on their project. With Wolsey’s skills as a digital media major and degree in electronic and computer technology, combined with Redd’s know-how as a double major in digital media and physics, the two put their heads together to create a perfectly toned mixing board.
As they worked on their first prototype, the duo ran into some setbacks due to faulty information they received on certain circuits they were using. As a result, they didn’t have the perfect design they desired. They entered their prototype anyway and still managed to place third in the annual Audio Engineering Society’s Student Grammy Awards, a competition for university students from around the world.
Although they were recognized for their efforts, Wolsey and Redd knew they had it in them to create the perfect mixing board, so they went back to the drawing board. Their motivation only increased as they continued to brainstorm and modify the design. During the project, their focus was to create the best tone control on a three-band equalizer. To do this, they created an extra tone control setting to better handle the low, medium and high frequencies on a range of channels.
The most valuable feature of the design is the versatility of the channels, which can accommodate a variety of instruments and vocalists. "You can individually adjust each channel," Wolsey said. "That’s what sets our design apart from everyone else."
After another year of correcting mistakes from the previous prototype and improving their mixing board design, Wolsey and Redd entered the Student Grammy Awards competition once again. This time, their design used the correct circuits to make their mixing board unlike any other with an equalizer circuitin- one function.
At the international competition, they faced students from renowned schools such as the Banff Center for the Arts, McGill University and New York University, as well as universities from Belgium, Czechoslovakia and Germany. "[They competed] against some of the most respected audio programs in the world," Wisland said. "This is what makes these awards so significant."
These well-funded, respected competitors didn’t intimidate Wolsey and Redd. "I felt very confident," Redd said. "Sean and I had spent more than two years working on the design and it worked perfectly before we presented." When it was their turn to present their mixing board prototype to the panel of judges, they were grilled for 45 minutes on their entry and impressed the judges enough with their presentation to come out on top of all the other international student competitors. As firstplace winners, the two represented how good ideas and hard work can be more essential than funding.
"McGill University in Montreal is one of our biggest competitors," Wisland said. "I’ve seen their mixing board and it costs more than our entire digital media program. It’s nice to know that it’s not always about the expensive equipment. It’s what you know and how you use it." Not only did Wolsey and Redd show their competitors how to do more with less, but they also continued UVU’s tradition of consistently placing or winning against these schools for the past six years. Wolsey credits the UVU Department of Digital Media for aiding Redd and him, as well as other students, in their projects. "Without Wisland, we wouldn’t have even attempted this," Wolsey said. "I think the instructors in the digital media department are great. They all know exactly what they’re doing."
Although it took two years to make their design into what it is today, Wolsey and Redd now have an award-winning mixing board and a patent pending. Their next project is to go into business together and get it out on the market to let others enjoy its exclusive features. "It’s been two years of my life — I feel gratified," Wolsey said.