Q&A: Dolapo Adedokun on IT, Ireland and all that jazz | MIT News
Adedolapo Adedokun has a lot to look forward to in 2023. After graduating in Electrical and Computer Engineering next spring, he will travel to Ireland to undertake a Masters in Intelligent Systems at Trinity College Dublin as the fourth MIT student to receive the prestigious George J. Mitchell Scholarship. But there is more to Adedokun, which goes through Dolapo, than just academic success. In addition to being a talented computer scientist, the senior is an accomplished musician, an influential member of the student government – and an anime fan.
Question: What motivates you the most to go to Ireland to study for a year?
A: One of the reasons I got interested in Ireland was when I heard about Music Generation, a national initiative for music education in Ireland, with the aim of giving every Irish child the access to the arts through access to music lessons, performance opportunities and music education. inside and outside the classroom. It made me think, “Wow, this is a country that recognizes the importance of arts and music education and has invested in making it accessible to people from all walks of life. I am inspired by this initiative and wish it was something I could have had growing up.
I am also very inspired by the work of Louis Stewart, an amazing jazz guitarist who was born and raised in Dublin. I am delighted to explore its musical influences and to delve into Dublin’s rich music community. I hope to join a jazz group, maybe a trio or quartet, and perform all over town, immerse myself in the rich Irish music scene, but also share my own styles and musical influences with the community there – low.
Question: Of course, while you’re at it you’ll be working on your HS in smart systems. I am intrigued by your invention of a smart home system that allows users to layer different melodies as they enter and exit a building. Can you tell us a bit more about this system: how it works, how you see users interacting with and experiencing it, and what you learned while developing it?
A: Funny enough, it actually started out as a system I worked on in my first year in 6.08 (Introduction to Embedded Systems) with a few classmates. We called it Smart HOMiE, an IoT [internet-of-things] Arduino smart home device that gathered basic information like location, weather and interfaced with Amazon Alexa. I forgot to work on it until I took 21M.080 (Introduction to Music Technology) and 6.033 (Computer Systems Engineering) in my first year, and I started to explore applications creatives of machine learning and computing in areas such as audio synthesis and digital instrument design. I’ve discovered amazing projects like Google Magenta’s Tone Transfer ML, models that use machine learning models to turn sounds into legitimate musical instruments. As I got to know this unique intersection of music and technology, I began to think about larger questions, such as: “What kind of creative future can technology create?” How can technology enable anyone to be expressive? “
When I had some free time at home for a year, I wanted to play around with some of the audio synthesis tools I had learned. I took Smart HOMiE and improved it a bit, made it a bit more musical. It worked in three main stages. First, multiple people could sing along and record melodies that the device would save and store. Then, using a few Python pitch correction and audio synthesis libraries, Smart HOMiE corrected the recorded melodies until they fit together, or generally fit in the same key, in musical terms. Finally, it would then combine the melodies, add harmony, or layer the track over a backing track, and in the end you created something really unique and expressive. It was definitely a bit disjointed, but it was one of my first times messing around and exploring all the work that has already been done by amazing people in this space. Technology has this incredible potential to make anyone a creator – I would love to create the tools to make it happen.
Question: You yourself are a jazz instrumentalist. Tell us more!
A: I’ve always had an affinity for music, but I didn’t always feel like I could become a musician. I had played the saxophone in college but it never really stuck. When I first came to MIT I was fortunate enough to take 21M.051 (Fundamentals of Music) and immerse myself in the proper music theory for the first time. It was in this class that I was exposed to jazz and that I completely fell in love with it. I will never forget returning to New House from the Barker Library during my freshman year and stumbling upon “Undercurrent” by Bill Evans and Jim Hall – I think that’s when I decided to learn jazz guitar.
Jazz, and improvisation in particular, has taught me so much about what it means to be creative: to be willing to experiment, to take risks, to rely on the work of others, and to accept failure – all skills which I sincerely believe have made me a better technologist and leader. Most importantly, I think music and jazz taught me patience and discipline, and mastering a skill takes a lifetime. I would be lying if I said I was happy with my current situation, but every day I look forward to taking a step forward towards my goals.
Question: You focused on music and arts education, and the potential of technology to strengthen both. Is there a particularly influential class, technology, or teacher in your past that you can point to as a life-changing agent?
A: Whoa, difficult question! I think there are a few inflection points that have really driven change for me. The first was in high school when I discovered Guitar Hero, the musical rhythm video game that started as a project in the MIT Media Lab attempting to bring the joy of making music to people from all walks of life. It was then that I was able to observe the multidisciplinary influence of technology in the service of others.
The next one, I would say, was 6.033 at MIT. From the first day of class, the teacher [Katrina] LaCurts focused on understanding the people we design for. That we should view system design as inherently people-oriented – before we think about designing a system, we must first consider the people who will be using it. We need to consider their goals, their personalities, their backgrounds, the obstacles they face and, most importantly, the consequences of our design and implementation choices. I imagine a future where music, the arts, and the creative process are accessible to everyone, and I believe 6.033 has given me the foundation to build the technology to achieve this goal.
Question: You have also developed a passion for broadband infrastructure, which at first glance people might not get connected to music and education, your other two goals. Why is broadband such an important factor?
A: Before we can think about the potential of technology to democratize accessibility to music and the arts, we must first step back and think about accessibility. Which communities have increasingly less access to the appropriate technology that we often take for granted? I think broadband is only one factor in the realm of the bigger problem, which is accessibility, especially in minority and low-income communities. I see technology as the key to democratizing access to music and the arts for people from all walks of life, but this technology can only be the key if the basic infrastructure is in place for everyone. takes advantage. Just as I learned in 6.033, this means understanding the barriers of people and communities with the least access, and investing in critical core technological resources like fair high-speed internet access.
Question: Between your work on the Undergraduate Student Advisory Group at EECS, the Harvard / MIT Cooperative Society, the MIT Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, and of course all your research and many academic interests, plenty of readers have to ask if you have ever eaten or sleep! How did you balance your busy life at MIT and maintain your self-esteem while accomplishing so much as an undergraduate student?
A: Excellent question! I’ll start by saying that it took me a while to figure it out. There were semesters where I had to drop classes and / or give up extracurricular commitments to find some balance. It’s always hard, to be surrounded by the brightest students in the world who are all doing amazing and amazing things, not to feel like you need to add one more class or one more UROP.
I think the most important thing, however, is to stay true to yourself – to figure out the things that bring you joy, that turn you on, and how many of those commitments are reasonable to make in each semester. I’m not a student who can take a million classes, research, internships, and clubs at the same time, but that’s totally okay. It took me a while to find the things I liked and understand the academic load that was appropriate for me each semester, but once I did I was happier than ever. I realized that things like playing tennis and basketball, playing with friends, and even sneaking into a few anime episodes here and there were really important to me. As long as I can look back each week, month, semester and year and say that I have taken a step forward towards my academic, social and musical goals, even the smallest, then I think I am taking action in the good direction.